Netflixable? A superior French thriller becomes an American Buddy Picture as “Point Blank”

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I’m not sure what sort of quality control, what form the traditional Hollywood “studio chief,” “head of production” or “supervising producers” Netflix operates under.

If indeed, they have any. Heaven knows, they’ll acquire most any piece of junk movie that others have made they can get their hands on. They have to feed that “content” beast, at all costs. Why should “in house” projects be consistently any better?

But whoever put the remake of the fine French thriller “Point Blank” in the hands of actor turned hack-director Joe Lynch should be hiding under a rock, right about now.

What was a lean, mean, desperate tale of a nurse whose pregnant wife is kidnapped, forcing him to help bad guys free one of their gang from the hospital, becomes an eye-roller of an action picture that descends into the worst excesses of “buddy comedy” by the time Lynch is done with it.

Long before the gang boss named Big D (Markice Moore) has shown up, declaring what he REALLY wants to do is not drugs or drive-bys, but to “direct,” showing his gang “Sorcerer” and misquoting classic action pictures left and right — “All RIGHT. Warriors? Let’s go out and play!” — Lynch has turned this tight tale into an ultra-violent violent misfire, and an utter joke.

It’s now a Cincinnati story, where Abe, played by the heaviest of heavies, Frank Grillo, has just limped out of a shootout in the home of an assistant district attorney.

The ADA is dead, and Abe’s been shot. The punchline to that “joke” is when wheelman younger brother Mateo (Christian Cooke) races up and hits Abe with his car.

Ooopsie? Hilarious (cough cough).

That puts Abe in the hospital, with cops guarding him around the clock. Mateo sneaks in to grab what Abe stole from the ADA, an incriminating flash drive. Nurse Paul — it’s the subject of a joke, once or twice, the fact that he’s a “male nurse” — shows up, Mateo beats the hell out of him and steals his ID badge.

Mateo uses that to find out where Paul lives, grabbing Paul’s very pregnant wife (Teyonah Parris) and by the way, beating the hell out of Paul. Again.

Here’s the sight gag in that. Paul is played by Anthony Mackie, who doesn’t hide his years-at-the-gym muscles as he “stretches” playing a guy mentally and physically out of his depth, overmatched with real toughs.

Paul must sneak Abe out and get him to a hand-off with Mateo. Of course, complications ensue.

Lynch and the adapter of the screenplay, Adam P. Simon, stage car chases with Paul’s Prius — “This is MY car, not a rental! You’re driving it tooo hard! Slow down!” — and a PT Cruiser.

The ticking clock here has the cops (Marcia Gay Harden) and Big D’s gang looking for Abe and Paul and Mateo and texting threats as they do.

Lynch lets the urgency sputter out and the clock wind down at about the film’s halfway point. That’s when he goes all in on the comedy, which isn’t that comic. Random scenes pop up that are nothing more than a joke, killing the film’s momentum for a middling gag.

A nervy remake with rolling, hand-held extreme close-ups of Paul hustling his bargaining chip (Abe) on a gurney, in panic and with genuine fear for his wife and unborn child’s life, becomes a Mackie-Grillo swap threats and one-liners fest.

It’s all about the banter.

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Who knows how long it took to stage, rehearse and shoot a frantic raid-the-pharmacy scene where Paul/Mackie, in his element, gathers everything he’ll need to resuscitate and move the mobster, a scene filmed as a swirling, manic 360 degree pan?

Breathless.

We see Paul start to transform into a man with a mission, thanks to the kidnapping of his wife.

But then the jokes begin and that tension balloon pops in a flash. The picture never recovers.

Harden’s an Oscar winner, and glowers, insults and shoots her way to almost-credible as a grizzled cop, a tough-broad detective on a tear. Mackie and Grillo play the pages they’re handed because they’re pros, but tone evades them, too.

Foreshadowing in this movie is so obvious there should be an inter-title when a key peripheral character is introduced — “FORESHADOWING.”

And is there anything more grating than Tarantino-fans who create movie-buff characters just to service their own taste in old movies? A character confesses that the action climax was borrowed from “Spartacus,” with “a little ‘Christine?'”

The tone of what feels, for its first half hour, like a solid action picture, feels off the moment the zingers start-flying.

You want to make this a comedy, dial down the violence and bring in Big D a LOT earlier. Because Big D — a sight gag (you’ll see) — is funny.

Big D, you’ve got EIGHT kids?

“I couldn’t pull out of a PARKING space!”

1half-star

MPAA Rating: TV-MA, violent

Cast: Anthony Mackie, Frank Grillo, Marcia Gay Harden, Teyonah Parris, Christian Cooke, Boris McGiver, Markice Moore

Credits: Directed by Joe Lynch, script by Adam G. Simon, based on the French film by Fred Cavayé. A Netflix Original.

Running time: 1:26

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