Today’s installment of class reviews focuses on foreign films. Living in a big city like LA, New York, or Chicago, these films are readily accessible. But in some smaller towns (and trust me I’ve lived in one), foreign films are a rare commodity and most people are quite hesitant about them. For those of you that lean towards the hesitant side, this film might be a good one to test out. Enjoy!
Fred Cavayé’s Point Blank (2010) begins with a literal bang as intrepid thief, Hugo Sartet (Roschdy Zem), slams into a metal door in the midst of a chase. Sartet is wounded, limping heavily as he runs, and is being followed by two menacing men in black, toting guns. He makes a call to his mysterious associate in rapid-fire French and turns into an underground highway. The men gain on Sartet. He pauses, seeking his getaway driver on the road. And then Sartet is run over by a motorcycle, the cyclist goes flying, and the two pursuers melt back into the shadows. This opening sequence sets the frantic pace for the entire film. Point Blank is a movie that asks its audience to keep up with the action and only allows minor moments to catch your breath.
Yet Point Blank is not merely Sartet’s story. The film readily switches perspectives from harried nurse-in-training Samuel Pierret (Gilles Lellouche), his largely pregnant wife, Nadia (Elena Anaya), bad-cop Commandant Patrick Werner (Gérard Lanvin), and good-cop Commandant Fabre (Mireille Perrier). Each of these characters has something on the line; the stakes of Point Blank are very clear. Nadia is in danger of losing her baby unless she takes bed rest, but then she is kidnapped. Samuel is desperate to get his wife and child back, but he must help Sartet escape his hospital bed. Sartet is trying to find the man who framed him for murder, but he needs to escape Samuel’s care. And so on and so forth.
Each plot point is straight forward. Together they create dynamic layers to enhance the film’s narrative.
For those American audiences who feel gun-shy about foreign films, Point Blank is the perfect entry point into modern French movies. The dialogue is simple and easy to follow for those not used to scanning the screen for subtitles. The twists come from the high-octane action sequences as details are revealed by the physical decisions the characters make. For example, the two gun-toting men from the opening sequence are revealed to be dirty cops when they walk into a crime scene with Werner. Even in moments of relative rest the film constantly reminds its viewers of the chase.
Audiences may be familiar with at least one of the faces in Point Blank. Fans of the paranormal fantasy Van Helsing (2004) may recognize Elena Anaya, who played murderous bride of Dracula, Aleera. Anaya also appears in The Land of Women (2007), and is the only principle character that has directly crossed over into Hollywood. Yet the creative team for Point Blank should instill confidence for audiences as they have worked together many times before on films that have a distinct Hollywood feel, so their process is virtually streamlined. Director and writer Fred Cavayé often teams up with scenario writer Guillaume Lemans for films like Anything for Her (2008), starring Diane Kruger, and The Next Three Days (2010), starring Russell Crowe. Each of these films from the writer-director duo has strong elements of action and suspense, which Point Blank utilizes to its fullest. Ultimately Point Blank transcends national borders to be an enjoyable example of a modern action film that all audiences can connect with.