Methodical in technique, Fred Cavayé‘s astoundingly astute eye for action-thriller writing/directing makes Point Blank one of the most lean, well-paced and credible international films of the genre in recent years.
French film-makers have a born flair for this category, mixing heightened emotion with electrifying suspense, and Point Blank is no exception. But it’s far from formulaic, and is packed with twists and variations on the expected and realistic character responses to keep you totally engaged – forgiving the odd incredulous episode. Imagine Neeson’s Taken, without the added attraction of a big-named star.
The story follows happily married male nurse Samuel (Gilles Lellouche) who works in a Paris hospital. His heavily pregnant wife (Elena Anaya) is kidnapped in front of him at their apartment, while they make dinner together and discuss the day’s events. After being knocked unconscious, he comes to find his phone ringing: He has three hours to get Sartet (Roschdy Zem), a man under police surveillance, out of the hospital, or else…
As a former fashion and advertising photographer, Cavayé is aware of style, but not over stylising in producing one exhilarating and time-critical spree through Paris’ streets. There is rarely one redundant shot/camera angle in this beautifully edited and directed film, and each set piece is been timed to near perfection to fit into the speedy, breathtaking puzzle.
This attention to detail allows each lead to demonstrate the best of their abilities, with little room for error. Even with the relentless, snappy pace, Cavayé never forgets his character development. Samuel is not overplayed by the enigmatic Lellouche, and does not transform into a ‘super-human being’ in trying to get his wife (and unborn child) back, but stays vulnerable, desperate and grounded. His actions seem a viable survival mechanism as his world collides with the darker, seedier one of Sartet’s, who’s the clichéd villain with a glimmer of humanity for the good out there.
A man of few words as Sartet, Zem’s performance is quietly menacing and mysterious, but all-engrossing on screen. A slow burner of emotions, Zem gives a consistent and confident portrayal that’s the complete opposite to the turbulent character of Samuel, which nicely balances the personalities.
The only minor quibble with Point Blank is the ending, which feels totally unnecessary as we can imagine what crooked Commandant Patrick Werner’s (Gérard Lanvin) fate will be – with Sartet about, he’s not going to walk away scot free. It feels like a Hollywood one where all the loose ends need to be tied up, visually – expect the inevitable Hollywood remake in the future, anyway. It may have been more powerful to give the last frame over to the female police officer’s expression, watching the couple after the birth, especially with her memorable reaction in a wonderful cop-verses-cop standoff, after some incriminating video is revealed at the station.
Expect the all-action unexpected with this thrilling ride – Point Blank like its namesake keeps its proverbial eye on the target, and really is a lesson in near flawless action thriller film-making from an exciting, budding director, Cavayé.
***WATCH THE TRAILER