All the elements found in the new French film “Point Blank” feel like repackaged parts from an ’80s action yarn.
You’ve got your Everyman hero, a kidnapped wife, a killer on the loose and a deluge of dirty cops. The joy of “Point Blank” is in the execution. Who minds recycled plot points when they’re put to such thrilling use?
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“Point Blank,” just released on Blu-ray and DVD, doesn’t resuscitate the action genre as much as give it a hearty salute. It’s impossible to watch without imagining it crossing the Atlantic via a homegrown remake. Let’s hope Hollywood is smart enough to copy the original’s crackling pace and attention to the details that count.
Gilles Lellouche (“Tell No One”) plays Samuel, a nurse’s aide eager for the birth of his first child. Samuel ends up saving the life of a patient named Hugo Sartet (Roschdy Zem), a man targeted for death by the same men who nearly killed him in the film’s opening sequence.
Samuel’s good deed ends up costing him plenty. Some hoods break into his home and kidnap his wife, and they’ll only let her go if Samuel can sneak Hugo out of the hospital and deposit him into their custody.
Who are these men? And can a nurse’s aide be devious enough to slip a patient out of a bustling hospital? Those are just a few of the questions teased in the tense opening act. And the answers start tumbling out in ways that audiences might not expect.
Zem makes Hugo into a deliciously complex killer. We know he’s cruel by the way he dispatches anyone who crosses his path. But there’s something oddly heroic about him, too, and that contrasts beautifully with Samuel’s “I’m making things up as I go along” mien.
Writer/director Fred Cavayé understands how to tie all the loose ends together without forgetting to keep the action at a blistering pace. He could teach our stateside directors a thing or two about finding the edge of a movie seat. When the film mercifully slows, the story’s weaknesses start to emerge. These moments rarely last long.
Plenty of action films involve Everymen forced to become heroes to save both themselves and the ones they love. But “Point Blank” takes that mission seriously. Samuel doesn’t become a martial artist mid-film or turn from a neophyte gunslinger into a marksman. He’s just a regular Joe forced to act – and act fast – in order to save his wife.
The Blu-ray extras include a satisfying “Making Of” documentary which shows, among other intriguing items, how much effort went into picking the winter coat Samuel wears through much of the film. It’s that attention to character that helps “Point Blank” leave its action peers in the dust.