Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Point Blank

Illustration for article titled Point Blank

Although it shares an English-language title with John Boorman’s heady hitman thriller, Fred Cavayé’s Point Blank doesn’t have much on its mind beyond plot mechanics, although that isn’t so much a criticism as a heads-up. Not counting a superfluous epilogue, the tightly wound story unfolds in the space of an hour and a quarter, scraping against the lower edge of the acceptable range for a standalone feature. In a different era, it would have filled out the bottom half of a double bill, doggedly pursuing its ends without pretense, unmarred by any attempt at sophistication.

Like Cavayé’s Pour Elle, reconstituted stateside as The Next Three Days, Point Blank is driven by a husband’s primal need to protect his wife and family. The husband in this case is Gilles Lellouche, a nurse who stumbles onto the attempted murder of a gunshot victim (Roschdy Zem) brought in earlier that night. At home, he lightly brags to pregnant wife Elena Anaya about her “hero” husband, but he’s taken unawares when men burst into their apartment, knock him cold, and kidnap his wife, threatening to kill her unless Lellouche goes back to the hospital and finishes the job he interrupted.

The wrong-man twists come thick and fast, until Lellouche’s path is as gnarled as a headphone cord. Cavayé periodically cuts away to track the progress of the cops investigating the murder of a powerful businessman—naturally, they settle on Lellouche as a prime suspect—but not long enough to lessen the tension, or even develop the characters beyond their place in the schema. The actors’ charisma is a draw, but mostly, the movie relies on Pavlovian reaction to the genre: The audience has its designated place as surely as any element in Cavayé’s relentless machine.

The best B-movies are driven by a kind of crazy conviction; they move so fast and with such force that viewers don’t have time or desire to gaze at the gaps in the scenery. With Point Blank, the pieces fit together, but there’s still something missing. Rather than letting the audience in on the ludicrous concoction at the movie’s heart, Cavayé plays it straight, leaving us the choice of overinvesting in a trifle or admiring the action from a comfortable distance. It’s an effective exercise, but it’s like watching someone else drive a racecar rather than sitting behind the wheel.