Movie Review: “Point Blank,” the best French thriller in decades

The French thriller “Point Blank” clocks in at just 84 minutes. And a leaner and meaner 84 minutes you are not likely to catch on a screen this year. Fred Cavaye’s film is a ticking clock tale with all the urgency a story about a man trying to save his pregnant and kidnapped wife can muster.

The terrific Gilles Lellouche, seen in the French imports “Mesrine” and “Tell No One,” plays Samuel, a nurse who stumbles into an attempt to finish off the low-rent mobster Hugo (Roschdy Zem) while he is hospitalized. Samuel saves Hugo’s life.

The mobster and his mob should be grateful, right? Not exactly. Samuel comes home to find his wife (Elena Anaya) snatched and his marching orders from Hugo’s boys — free the boss before those trying to kill him complete the job.

Co-writer and director Fred Cavaye doesn’t let Samuel dwell on this nightmare. It doesn’t even let him come up with a plan. Samuel dashes out the door, into the hospital, and improvises a simple, nervy getaway with the badly-wounded bad guy. You will not believe how he gets Hugo off the bed and makes him ambulatory.

So the cops are after them. And the people who shot Hugo in the first place. Samuel and the cool-headed/cold-blooded Hugo have to trust each other enough to team up to make their escape and save Samuel’s wife from Hugo’s henchmen. Did I mention Hugo doesn’t know where she is?

The script is dense with plot complications and tight spots that the hero and anti-hero must escape from. They have to figure out where the woman is being kept, figure out who is trying to kill them and sneak or fight their way through parts of France that will remind no one of “Midnight in Paris.”

Characters seem like their salvation, then are abruptly killed. And even if you’re glued to the screen, you will be surprised half a dozen times by the twists in the final act.

With its shootouts, executions, and breathless chases, “Point Blank” is a gripping, violent, edge-of-your-seat thriller in the best French tradition. If Luc “La Femme Nikita” Besson hasn’t snatched up Fred Cavaye and added him to his action stable, it can’t be for a lack of trying.  This guy knows how to stage, shoot and cut action.

Don’t let the subtitles (it is in French) scare you off. Having a story that rivets us to the screen and characters we care about after only the briefest introduction make “Point Blank,” opening at the Regal Winter Park Village Friday, a real rival for “Hanna” as the year’s best thriller.

 

MPAA Rating: unrated, lots of gruesome violence.

Cast: Gilles Lellouche, Roschdy Zem, Elena Anaya

Credits: Directed by Fred Cavaye, written by Cavaye and Guillaume Lemans. A Magnolia Pictures release.

Running time: 1:24.

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