Film Review: Point Blank

The French have a lock on style and it’s pleasingly on view throughout this sizzling, slick contemporary urban actioner that pits an unlikely hero-and-sidekick duo against some likely and unlikely villains. A genre gem that deserves a cross-quand

Writer-director Fred Cavayé got his start as a fashion photographer, so it’s no surprise that Point Blank (no relation to the 1967 John Boorman film) is a visual pleasure. What does surprise is that, with considerable help, he, uh, fashioned what could have been a routine actioner with familiar plot elements into something so smart, intelligent and meticulously crafted. Even non-fans of the genre will be entertained, while entrenched devotees get manifold required doses of de rigueur stunt-enhanced, envelope-pushing action scenes and that dependable good-overcomes-evil boilerplate.

Point Blank features what is likely the genre’s first-ever nurse’s-aide action hero. He’s Samuel (Gilles Lellouche), who works in a Paris hospital as he awaits his nurse’s license and first child, with whom beloved, beautiful wife Nadia (Elena Anaya) is very pregnant. Unfortunately, the hospital has a patient wounded in a shootout who is a hot potato: thug Hugo Sartet (Roschdy Zem), under police surveillance but wanted very dead by rival gangs for his involvement in the sensational recent murder of a mogul industrialist. One gang member even gets to Sartet to snip his respirator, but nurse Samuel saves his life.]

Soon after, more gangsters invade Samuel and Nadia’s apartment, immobilize Samuel and kidnap Nadia. Samuel soon learns that he must get Sartet out of the hospital ASAP and into kidnappers’ hands or Nadia dies. With much frenetic derring-do, he manages the task and he and Sartet are on the run, heading to where Sartet will be exchanged for Nadia. Meanwhile, a rivalry among police squads emerges with two commandants—Werner (Gérard Lanvin), who is investigating the mogul murder, and Fabre (Mireille Perrier), in charge of retrieving the nurse and escaped patient—each laying claim to the task of retrieving Samuel and Sartet.

The exchange of hostages gets thorny and catapults Samuel and Sartet, marked as most-wanted suspects in the mogul murder, onto the Paris streets and into the subway as cops and thugs give chase. Further complicating things, some of the cops are in deep with the thugs and maybe a thug or two is not so bad.

True to its genre, Point Blank does occasionally push the credibility envelope (Can cops really be that bad?). And it takes no brilliance to know that all will turn out well for the good guys. But Cavayé’s delivery of fine performances from the gifted cast; action set-pieces (especially that Metro chase!); visuals and pacing that let no eyeball wander; and subtle, reality-rooted touches of dialogue and behavior elevate the film. And, mercifully, Klaus Badelt’s score never gets in the way. Point Blank, in spite of leveraging Paris locales that no tourist sees, proves that action can milk its assets with elegance.