Point Blank (2011)
8/10 Desperate Measures
The cinematic equivalent of bungee jumping on speed.
Point Blank is about a French safecracker who gets framed for a murder he didn’t commit and barely escapes with his life before ending up in a hospital. That same night, one of the guys who set the safecracker up tries to take him off life support, but a male nurse shows up just in time to save his life. The following morning, a guy breaks into the male nurse’s apartment, knocks the male nurse out, and then kidnaps the male nurse’s pregnant wife. In order to get his wife back, the male nurse now has to break the safecracker out of the hospital, become a wanted man in the process, and work together with the safecracker to clear their good names, not die, and turn the tables on whoever it is that wants them dead.
Going in, the only thing I knew about this movie is that it was French and had the same title as a 1967 Lee Marvin movie that’s apparently as badass as they come. Didn’t know what it was about, didn’t know who was in it, expectations were at an all-time low. So when the lights dimmed, the movie started, and I had to remind myself that if I didn’t exhale I was going to die by the five-minute mark, I knew I’d found myself a winner.
With that being said, you don’t really need to know much about this movie going in. When the title disappears and the movie punches you in the solar plexus the very next millisecond, that’s all the explanation you need. From that point forward it does not stop, it does not calm down, and that’s the beauty of it. This is Run, Lola, Run, this is The Bourne Ultimatum, this is how you strike that rare balance between action thriller and drama by pacing it like a runaway freight train and developing characters with each new crossing it crashes through.
On top of that, it manages to be nuts while remaining realistic. No one knows kung-fu, no one’s a trained super assassin, and whenever there’s a chase (which is all the freakin’ time), it’s always done on foot. And that’s just awesome. Nothing against car chases and ninja assassins, but good old fashioned foot chases that place average Joes in a life-or-death situation carry an energy that you can’t get with four wheels and a katana. Even though I went in blind, the last thing I expected was the sensation of getting a syringe filled with cheetah adrenaline jammed into my forehead for 84 minutes. I’m fairly certain the element of surprise weighs into why I liked this movie so much, but even knowing full well that this is exactly the kind of ride you’re in for, you still won’t be properly prepped and that’s not even counting the constant twists and turns that follow.
But by the same token, the story doesn’t quite measure up to the film making. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good story and the writers move the plot along brilliantly by throwing the male nurse into one dead end situation after another until everything he holds dear is at risk of getting a bullet to the brain. Unfortunately, it’s not really one of those stories that leaves you feeling anything of significance when it’s all over, there’s not that emotional touchstone. But even with that minor complaint that might only exist because the film making is so effing slick, this is operating on a whole ‘nother level as far as thrill rides are concerned. It won’t change your outlook on life and it doesn’t quite have that emotional impact you tend to take away from a good drama, but you’ll be invested, you’ll still feel different when it’s over, and you’ll probably want a sedative on hand to balance yourself out.
It also helps that the characters are good, that they’ve got a surprising amount of growth and development going for them, and that the cast happens to kick ass, too. Since I still haven’t seen Tell No One for some reason, this is the first time introduction to Gilles Lellouche who plays the male nurse on a mission, and here’s a guy who seems to know a thing or two about intensity. He’s always terrified, he never turns into some kind of superhero, but he’s quick on his feet and he will stop at absolutely nothing to get his wife and his life back. I like that about him, Lellouche makes it believable, and so is the unlikely alliance he forms with the safecracker played by Roschdy Zem, who happens to quite the stone cold badass. Alone and together, these two are a real asset to the movie from the top to bottom and do at the very least do a bang-up job of keeping the tone at a constant state of “MOVE!”
And as much as I hate having to mention this every time a good foreign film comes my way, yes, it is in subtitles. Then again, the upside is that this is one of those movies that barely needs dialogue to begin with. Just glance at the bottom of the screen every once in a while, get a general gist of what’s going on, then go back to enjoying the insanity. Easy peasy Japanesy.
Folks, Point Blank is just plain wild. There’s not much to be gained from it in terms of substance and message, but it ain’t too often that a non-horror movie leaves me cowering in my seat and clenching my jaw ’til my gums hurt. Not that it’s shocking or overly violent by any means, it’s just as intense and exciting and finely tuned as they come. If Red Bull was a movie, it would be this, and if there was one movie this past Summer that I wish I’d paid to see twice, damn right it would be this.