July 30, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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POINT BLANK – Worth a Ticket:  A Thrill-Ride with Subtitles


The most gripping Hollywood thriller of the summer is… in French.  (But not for long.)  This isn’t a complete surprise:  POINT BLANK‘s director/co-writer Fred Cavaye may not be a household name, but he made the film Anything For Her, the 96-minute thriller that in classic big studio fashion was dumped with hardly any US release because its remake rights had been acquired–and was then remade by Paul Haggis as the bloated 122-minute flop The Next Three DaysPoint Blank, which is also awaiting US translation, is at least being shown now in its original form.


Point Blank makes Anything For Her look epic in length:  it clocks in at 84 nonstop minutes, including credits.  The scenario, by Cavaye and Guillame Lemans, is a twist on the familiar story of an innocent man caught in circumstances beyond his control.  Gilles Lellouche is Samuel, a nurse’s aide at a Paris hospital whose wife Nadia (Elena Anaya) is 7 1/2 months into a difficult pregnancy.  Samuel happens to be on duty when the victim of a motorcycle accident is brought into his ward.  But that man, Sartet (Roschdy Zem), isn’t just an accident victim, and Samuel–not even sure what’s going on–saves Sartet when men try to murder him in his hospital bed.

After that, things happen very fast.  The people who tried to kill Sartet kidnap Nadia and tell Samuel they’ll kill her and the unborn child if Samuel doesn’t deliver Sartet to them.  Samuel is willing to cooperate:  Sartet is apparently a murderer himself, and all Samuel cares about is rescuing his family.  But of course nothing is as simple as it seems.  Before long, Samuel is on the run from just about everyone, the subject of some of the most exciting chase scenes this side of a Bourne movie, and trying to figure out just who the good and bad guys are.

Once Point Blank‘s plotline become clear, it’s not the most original story in the world, and given how little time there is to fit in all the twists (Cavaye even manages to squeeze in an epilogue!), the characters aren’t exactly drawn in depth.  But Cavaye and Lemans have a few surprises to spring along the way, and Cavaye brings sustained kinetic excitement to the movie; it’s a hugely satisfying ride.  Much of this is because Cavaye keeps all the action human-scaled:  there are no CG stunt doubles in the picture, no impossible leaps or unsurvivable explosions.  Chases are edited with sustained shots of actual people, who get short of breath when they have to run and who are clever without being masterminds.  Those kinds of movies used to be the bread and butter of Hollywood thrillers, but in this world of massively budgeted, overheated fantasies, they’ve almost disappeared.  Point Blank is an electrifying reminder of how much fun this genre can be.

Point Blank isn’t an actors’ movie, but Lellouche, Zem, Anaya and Gerard Lanvin as an enigmatic cop are all convincing, with performances that smooth out many of the bumps in their pencilled-in characters.  As for Cavaye, on the one hand one wishes he’d get the chance to direct a Hollywood movie himself–on the other, it’s easy to fear that if he had a $100M budget to play with, he might get as lazy as the rest of the big-studio crew.  For now, Point Blank is definitely worth chasing after–catch it before Hollywood screws it up.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."