“Point Blank” starts just as its title does, without foreplay. The first shot jolts us into a story, of smart escapism.
On a typical workday Samuel (Gilles Lellouche), a nursing assistant in France, tries to stop a suspicious hospital visitor in a lab coat from messing with an injured criminal, Hugo Sartet (Roschdy Zem), being treated after having fled an attack. He pursues the man in a lab coat, but merely shoos him. In another world that wouldn’t even be a blip.
Too bad he and his pregnant wife, Nadia Pierret (Elena Anaya), are in for the shock of their lives: someone breaks in to their apartment and seizes her before he can see or sense anything. But why?
“Point Blank,” from director Fred Cavayé, opens at Minneapolis’ Lagoon Cinema on August 19th.
This event up-ends loving pregnant couple, Sam and Nadia’s, work-a-day urban life, like a chainsaw. Sam must deliver a dangerous package – that seasoned, violent criminal – to the man who has taken his pregnant wife. His pregnant wife is in the middle of a volatile pregnancy. The stakes couldn’t be more grave or personal.
This resembles a familiar, iconic character, right? Smart and ambitious, Samuel is an ordinary man who’s thrown into extraordinary circumstances of crime, betrayal and corruption. Remember Roger Thornhill in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 “North By Northwest,” or simply 1993′s “The Fugitive.”
The worlds of Sam, the abductor, and Hugo, his hostage, collide; the irony is that the innocent one is the abductor, pushed to desperation, to muscle and hustle a real criminal away from his guarded hospital bed to freedom.
The biggest irony is probably that these two disparate men amount to a good pair! They cooperate with each other when one of his agendas – Hugo’s safety, or Sam’s, but particularly Nadia’s – is jeopardized. This, while they spend most of their time tugging and yanking each other into opposite, rarely natural directions. Against the American stereotype of non-Anglo criminals, Hugo is consistently calmer than Sam. He’s also a complex, thoughtful semi-compassionate criminal, with copper skin and wooly hair. In American crime stories, the brown, black or beige criminal is either foolish or viscious, if not both.
At 83-mins, “Point Blank” is just long enough to be seen as a feature-length film, but it still feels like a full movie. When as an American, you think of a French thriller, “La Femme Nikita” pops to mind, and even “Taken,” although the latter merely takes place in Paris. “Point Blank” is fast-paced, and has wit. For a thriller, a chase thriller that’s rare. It provides more than the basics: characters we care about and a gripping plot.
Another interesting surprise: when’s the last time you got opera music in a thriller, it fit and worked for you? “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” with Jimmy Stewart, had an orchestra scene, hmm almost a motif, but that’s different. Well, after an intense chase scene (one among many) we get this vocal, which let’s the pace and our hearts slow down.
“Point Blank” borrows music and specific shots from “The Bourne Ultimatum” and takes cues from Bernard Hermann’s music, which marked a few different Hitchcock oeuvres, such as “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” It’s worth noting that family, the protection of family is at the heart of both that film and “Point Blank.” That’s atypical for a thriller.