Point Blank [À bout portant] (2011)

Starring Gilles Lellouche, Roschdy Zem, Gérard Lanvin, Elena Anaya, Mireille Perrier, Claire Perot, Moussa Maaskri, Pierre Benoist, Valérie Dashwood, Virgile Bramly, Nicky Naude

Directed by Fred Cavayé

Expectations: Pretty high, I’ve heard great things.

Point Blank sets out to make a high-octane, high-stakes thriller where an innocent man gets dragged into the middle of a web of corrupt cops and hardened criminals when his pregant wife is kidnapped. A film like this, with a slim eighty-four minute runtime, should fly by in a flash of excitement and gritty violence. Unfortunately, while Point Blank has its share of great moments, it’s more characterized by its inability to string these together flawlessly. With a story this simple and clichéd, the execution has to be perfect, but instead I found myself watching a cascade of moderately impressive action/chase sequences that I was emotionally disconnected from and I’m having a hard time remembering now, only a few days later.

So yeah, storywise this is remarkably simple, although it’s told in such a way that the viewer must unravel some of the more intricate plot points. The only thing is, when these are unraveled they are so incredibly clichéd and telegraphed that it’s neither a shock or very interesting. While watching Point Blank, I couldn’t escape the fact that I had seen this all done before and in films both better and more interesting. Look at Taken, for instance, a movie that shares many plot points and a very similar, short runtime. Taken never lets up the suspense and the dire situation of getting to Liam Neeson’s daughter as quick as possible is ever-present. In Point Blank, the husband is at the mercy of the people he’s with at the moment and there are large sections of the film where he must deal with the situation at hand, with both the character and the audience knowing that he’s getting no closer to his wife. Yeah… not so exciting.

In addition to this, there are multiple times during the film when the camera choices made by director Fred Cavayé seem to do a disservice to his film. At one point, our main character must leap from one building’s window into another building window across the way. Instead of shots to establish the distance or his fright in making such a jump, the film simply cuts from him kind of leaning out of the window to a shot of him leaping. It’s a jarring cut that realistically is something very minor, but it hurts the flow of the scene and belittles what should be a very thrilling moment on-screen.

As the film moves on, the film gets more and more crazy, but instead of the tension ratcheting up with it, I became even more tired of the film. It makes some huge logic jumps that I don’t even want to bother trying to dissect, but the biggest transgression to me came during the climax, when Cavayé completely botches the great potential of three suspenseful crosscutting scenes with some incredibly strange editing choices. And that’s really the heart of my feelings about this film, Point Blank has a ton of potential but it fails to truly utilize everything at its disposal. Where it does shine is the acting. Everyone involved plays their role perfectly and believably. I was especially impressed with Roschdy Zem’s performance as the safecracker the main character gets involved with for most of the film. His stalwart gaze told the audience everything they needed to know about his character’s personal makeup, and apparently the filmmaker’s agreed with me, as that’s about all you get for character development.

In spite of these nagging issues, Point Blank isn’t as bad as I may be making it sound. It does have a lot of cool moments and if you’re not quite the editing nerd I am, I’m sure you will have far less problems with the film than I did. I do want to say that overall the editing is impressively done, with restraint and without a lot of quick cut MTV bullshit. My editing issues are purely with the way it tells its story through cuts. Whatever… I did enjoy Point Blank, but it’s very light on substance, and it doesn’t really have the style to make up for this. Oh well. I have a feeling I may be in the minority on this one.