When you think of genre films from France, you probably think about hard-edged horror fare like High Tension, Martyrs, or Inside -- but there's at least one French filmmaker who seems intent on delivering slick and nifty "thrillers." His Anything for Her from a few years back was good enough to get Americanized into something called The Next Three Days (with Russell Crowe), and now Fred Cavayé is back with another flick that feels a little like an old-school Hitchcock premise crossed with some of the outrageously energetic DNA of Run Lola Run.
Sam Pierret (an excellent Gilles Lellouche) is a sweet guy: he's a good nurse, he has a gorgeous wife (Elena Anaya), and a baby daughter on the way. In other words, he's a nobody. But when a fugitive is wheeled into his emergency room, Sam becomes simply and inextricably drawn into a crazy crime saga that deals with murderous safe-crackers, evil cops, and a whole bunch of unsavory characters. As if it's not bad enough that someone has kidnapped Sam's extremely pregnant wife, he's forced to team up with a dangerous criminal, avoid the dirty cops, and stay far away from the clean ones, as well. Hey, it's a simple chase thriller with a pretty simple tale to tell.
When Point Blank (AKA À bout portant) really comes alive, however, it moves forward like a shot, and Cavayé seems to be having a grand old time throwing roadblocks in front of his reluctant hero. There are some spectacular chases in this film -- one elaborate pursuit in the French subway is full of suspense and cleverness -- and they all seem to pop up naturally. This is not a typical chase movie in which we get three or four solid action sequences surrounded by lots of dry and predictable blather. Cavayé and co-writer Guillaume Lemans approach their potentially outlandish thriller with a good deal of logic and sense, and that's always a nice switch.
Filled with strong performances by French actors I don't recognize and admirably crisp and efficient for the whole of its running time, Point Blank proves (yet again) that you don't need a whole lot of chit-chat and convoluted subplots to deliver a high-end action flick. Just a few characters worth caring about, some villains worthy of our hatred, and a smooth, simple delivery that unleashes the frenetic bits with some intelligence and craftiness. Point Blank might be just another chase movie, but it's a damn good example of one.
Point Blank opened in select U.S. theaters on July 29 and has been slowly making its way across the country. Limited engagements have been booked through October; check the official site for playdates.