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MOVIE REVIEW: Point Blank

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Of all the French thrillers out there (and there are many), why did Magnolia Pictures deem Fred Cavayé’s pointless Point Blank worthy of American distribution? Did they think Western audiences would just instinctually flock to the nearest action film with flashy hand held camera shots and jarring smash cuts? Rigorous to the point of delirium, Point Blank bum-rushes the viewer with seizure-inducing movement from the first frame, recycling variations of similar footraces through the damp streets, swank apartments, and cavernous dungeons of a Parisian urban playground. It’s the equivalent of an 83-minute chase sequence that goes figuratively nowhere, losing all sense of narrative logic and characterization in the madness.

Professional safecracker and all-around badass, Hugo Sartet (Roschdy Zem), runs through a dimly lit concrete jungle gut shot and bleeding profusely, pursued by two thugs with guns. When Hugo gets run over by a speeding motorcycle, he’s taken to the nearest hospital and left in the care of Samuel (Gilles Lellouche), an oblivious nursing aid who constantly worries about his very pregnant wife, Nadia (Elena Anaya). When Samuel saves Hugo from being murdered by those same nameless killers, Nadia is suddenly kidnapped, and all parties become embroiled in an elaborate plot involving political assassinations, shady gangsters, and corrupt police. Alfred Hitchcock might have loved the idea of Point Blank, but he would have most definitely hated Cavayé’s blunt execution.

For most of Point Blank, Samuel and Hugo are connected at the hip, pounding the pavement to escape a host of different human predators. But their odd coupling, ordinary man and criminal extraordinaire, is completely underdeveloped from a narrative perspective. Maybe it’s because the two men are constantly moving from one space to the next and never afforded the time to have a worthwhile chat. Human complexity doesn't seem to be one of the film's concerns. Literally every scene in Point Blank turns into a tense race against time, and all that heavy breathing and grunting gets exhausting fast, for both the characters and the audience. By the time Point Blank finally sets its careening momentum in one contained space (a multi-floored police station mired in chaos), none of the individual characters have been fleshed out enough to warrant investment in their fates.

The cinematic equivalent of a bull in a china shop, Point Blank shatters its narrative infrastructure just to revel in the destruction. Things happen, people get killed, but all of the drama seems random, lazily improvised by filmmakers resting on the shoulders of their innovative genre forefathers. During an ill-conceived epilogue, Cavayé’s late stab at fateful comeuppance is downright thoughtless, the final dramatic thud for an aimless wrecking ball of a movie swinging in all directions.