instead of the usual long-winded, flowery introduction, i’ll, much like the film in question, cut to the chase: a bout portant aka point blank (2010) is one of the best action movie i’ve seen in a while. it’s up there with my personal favorites (and perhaps surpasses them) such as the die hard series, the last boy scout, hard-boiled, the long kiss goodnight, the rock, con air, tsui hark’s time and tide, district b13, and shoot ’em up. like those movies, it moves at such a breakneck pace that you don’t question the plot until the rollercoaster thrillride is over, and by then you love it so much that you don’t very much care. released in the u.s. in 2011, it will no doubt land in my top ten of 2011. it actually unseated mission: impossible: ghost: protocol as the best action film of 2011, which is somewhat ironic since while there are amazing action sequences, it’s the elements surrounding these scenes that makes it not only a superb action film but also a thrilling filmic experience. and while i like most of them, it makes your typical luc besson produced/jason statham star vehicles feel like a terrence malick movie. few movies have made me feel pumped with adrenaline as when the end credits start crawling.
it’s on dvd and netflix instant. seriously, go watch it right now before i build it up some more. see you in 84 minutes.
on the other hand, maybe i was underselling it by calling it an action movie. point blank 2010 is also a thriller that is essentially a chase movie, in the grand traditions of north by northwest, the fugitive, speed, deep blue sea, and enemy of the state. it dives right in with the opening credits sequence that sets the tone for the rest of the movie: a foot chase that ends in a tunnel. as ronin taught us, tunnel chase scenes in europe can only end in so many ways.
next we meet samuel, played by gilles lellouche, who’s also in tell no one, juliette binoche’s paris, mesrine: killer instinct, and anthony zimmer, the original version of the golden globe nominated the tourist. samuel is a soon-to-be nurse with a very pregnant wife (elena anaya from the skin i live in, cairo time, and also mesrine). during his night shift at the hospital, he inadvertently thwarts an attempt to kill one of his patients, who happens to be the man we see being chased in the opening credits. the man is hugo sartet, played by roschdy zem, from le petit lieutenant, the girl from monaco, and the upcoming BRUCE movie the cold light of day. thinking that he’s a hero, the next morning while samuel is relating the story to his wife, he is knocked unconscious and his wife kidnapped. he wakes up with a cell phone in front of him, the voice on the other end as its demand: get hugo out of the hospital by noon if he wants his wife alive. this is the only scene in the movie that will remind you of taken.
of course, the film eventually involves good cops, bad cops, the italian mafia, a tycoon, a will, an inheritance, a greedy son, a usb drive and numerous chases. since i’m pretty sure that not many people will listen to me, i won’t get further into the plot. the first time experience is crucial in a movie like this. i will say that the screenplay, by director fred cavaye and guillaume lemans did an amazing job in cranking up the tension, tightening the script, and also great at revealing information at the right time without the audience feel tricked.
the intricate screenplay is what makes point blank (2010) a cut above most action films. every action scene builds upon the characters and situations. it’s realistic in the sense that samuel the nurse-to-be does more or less things that someone in his situation would do. his medical knowledge comes in handy in a few scenes. i don’t know much about lellouche or zem and therefore they don’t have a specific character type that we expect them to play. none of that lawyer-turn-investigator crap or train conductor turn john mcclane shit here. none of the characters are ex-whatever agents. one of my favorite little touches in the movie is after one long, exciting, beautifully shot chase scene, samuel turns around to make sure no one’s following him, and then he starts throwing up.
another subtle little touch is that old school classic action scene where the mismatched leads decide to work together to get the real bad guys. in point blank (2010), it is a scene that is probably ten seconds long. there are no dialogues. the only thing we hear on the audio is the news on the radio, which finally reveals to us the identity of the kidnapper. it’s just the way one character looks at the other. the kind of camaraderie we used to get in action movies. this one look evokes deeper emotions than most bigger budget action movies.
the performances are realistic and believable across the board. in addition to lellouche, zem and anaya, there’s the bad cop werner played by gerard lanvin (also mesrine, the taste of others), who looks a bit like burt reynolds cross with timothy dalton. a breakout role though, belongs to claire perot as susini, who’s not only an actress and a singer but also a theatre/opera star who has been in mozart, the rock opera and cabaret in france. she kind of reminds me of sabrina lloyd in the scott brothers produced tv’s numb3rs or jorja fox’s sara sidle from the original c.s.i. based on what’s on screen here, she deserves her own version of haywire. or maybe death in the neil gaiman’s sandman movie. or a remake of the professional. hey maybe they can cast her if they do a remake of the girl with dragon tattoo.
bubbling underneath the action and chase scenes, there are also subtext regarding hierachy and authority. nurse-to-be samuel is scolded for trying to save the patient by a doctor. a homicide squad leader played by mireille perrier seems to get ignored by the big cases because she’s a woman. her squad includes susini, who wants to get to the bottom of things but is frequently prevented from doing so by her male superior.
some have complained that there’s an unnecessary ending that makes it “too neat.” but by that point i don’t really care. it gets you so involved and cheers for the characters that you want them to have a perfect ending. after everything that has gone before, the ending never feels forced. there’s a little bit of post-action shaky cam stuff but there is never a point where you don’t know what the fuck is going on. instead of commanding you to feel pumped and excited about what’s on screen like the equally long crank movies, you can actually feel the urgency and the stakes involved.
though i haven’t seen any facts yet, there are rumors that point blank (2010) is being remade in hollywood. it may work but it probably won’t. they’ll probably want to cast a vin diesel or jason statham as the usual action hero type, and that would ruin the essence of the original. cavaye and lemans’ last collaboration, pour elle (anything for her), also deal with a man under extraordinary situation trying to keep his family together. hollywood turned that 96-minute movie into the 133-minute russell crowe vehicle the next three days. so we can look forward to a more obvious and bloated star vehicle with a higher budget and having shit blown up real good, digitally.
further illustrating the greatness of point blank (2010), i was going to go to bed and put something in the background, so it will be in the recently watched and i can remove it from my packed instant queue. watching the movie on mute, it nevertheless made me sit up and paid more and more attention and got me involved so much so that i never fell asleep. when the movie ended, i was so energized that i couldn’t go to sleep for hours. i have watched it (with sound thankfully) twice since then. it will be on my tv on regular rotation along with hard-boiled, shoot em’ up, district b13, and the die hard movies.
p.s. the film made about $700,000 at the u.s. box office, which is pretty good for a non-awards-bait foreign film. that’s about a hundred times less than the box office of scary movie 2, broken arrow, no strings attached, fool’s gold, mortal kombat: the movie, and big momma’s house 2.
4/4! instant classic!