'Point Blank'

Provides few existential thrills but plenty of heart-racing action as it follows one man's marathon dash to save his kidnapped wife from execution.

Unlike John Boorman’s trippy 1967 L.A. noir of the same title, frenetic Gallic suspenser “Point Blank” provides few existential thrills but plenty of heart-racing action as it follows one man’s marathon dash to save his kidnapped wife from execution. While there may be no real point to this rather blank exercise in classic genre conventions, helmer Fred Cavaye follows his feature debut, “Anything for Her” (remade Stateside as “The Next Three Days”), with enough impressively handled chases and setpieces to incite solid B.O. during pic’s French rollout. Offshore theatrical and ancillary, plus another Hollywood makeover, are likely.

The film literally hits the ground running with a shot of a man (Roschdy Zem) crashing through a door as he dodges a pair of gun-wielding stooges; he then heads into a tunnel, where he collides head-on with a motorcycle racing by at 100 mph. All this occurs during the opening credits, and beyond a few pauses that clumsily attempt to explain the story’s unlikely chain of events, pic speeds by in 80 minutes (sans end credits) of nonstop gunplay, pileups (of people, not cars) and occasionally exhilarating location work throughout Paris’ streets and subways.

At the center of all the mayhem is Samuel (Gilles Lellouche), a nurse-in-training whose very pregnant other half, Nadia (Elena Anaya), is confined to permanent bedrest. When Samuel saves the wounded man (whom we learn is a career thief named Sartet) during his night rounds, Sartet’s cronies kidnap Nadia, coercing Samuel into springing the criminal from an intensive care unit under 24-hour guard. Soon enough, not one but two teams of trigger-happy cops are out to either kill or protect Sartet and Samuel, as the unlikely duo runs into a barrage of false leads, double-crossings and chaotic violence.

As in “Anything for Her,” the motivation here is a guy’s willingness to do whatever it takes to save his gal, though Cavaye and co-scribe Guillaume Lemans (“Caged”) have upped the adrenaline factor (even using actual adrenaline in an early scene) by tossing an unborn baby into the mix and shortening the timeframe. Improving upon his previous pic’s rhythm by turning this movie into one long chase, the helmer and returning dp Alain Duplantier make fine use of Paris geography to accompany the action, which is highlighted by a lengthy pursuit inside the Opera metro station.

While the onslaught of characters and events can seem confusing or even absurd at various points, we stick close enough to Samuel’s side that his predicament feels, if not at all realistic, than often riveting. Taking the classic wrong man scenario and bolstering it with an overdose of twists and reversals demands a certain level of deft, and in the end, Cavaye and his team wind up providing us with way more deft than depth, especially when the script’s main MacGuffin turns out to be a predictable device used in any number of throwaway TV policiers.

If Vincent Lindon was never entirely convincing as a booklover-turned-gunslinger in “Anything For Her,” Gilles Lellouche (“Little White Lies”) does a better job at portraying the fear and bewilderment Samuel faces as he leaps from one deathtrap to another. As the silent killer type, Zem (“Outside the Law”) gives Sartet plenty of screen presence, though he feels closer to a living plot point than to an actual person. The large supporting cast of mostly corrupt cops, lead by the ruthless Commandant Werner (Gerard Lanvin), are really just fully armed stock characters, with performances to match.

Tech is aces all around, providing an array of actual stunts that editor Benjamin Weill (“Dog Pound”) avoids cutting to pieces.

Point Blank

France

Production

A Gaumont release of an LGM Films, Gaumont, TF1 Films Prod., K.R. Prods. production, in association with Nexus Factory, Ufund, with participation of Canal Plus, TPS Star. (International sales: Gaumont, France.) Produced by Cyril Colbeau-Justin, Jean-Baptiste Dupont. Executive producer, David Giordano. Co-producers, Sylvain Golberg, Serge de Poucques, Adrian Politowski, Gilles Waterkeyn. Directed by Fred Cavaye. Screenplay, Cavaye, Guillaume Lemans.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Alain Duplantier; editor, Benjamin Weill; music, Klaus Badelt; production designer, Philippe Chiffre; costume designer, Marie-Laure Lasson; sound (Dolby Digital), Pierre Mertens, Alain Feat, Marc Doisne; stunt coordinator, Gilles Conseil; line producer, Anne Giraudau; assistant director, Michael Viger; casting, Olivier Carbone. Reviewed at Gaumont screening room, Neuilly-sur-Seine, Nov. 22, 2010. Running time: 84 MIN.

With

Gilles Lellouche, Roschdy Zem, Gerard Lanvin, Elena Anaya, Mireille Perrier, Claire Perot, Moussa Maaskri, Pierre Benoist, Valerie Dashwood, Virgile Bramly

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