Released: 12th July
Seen: 9th August
In 2010 the French film À bout portant came out to critical acclaim. Known overseas as Point Blank, it’s a story of a nurse who gets dragged into a world of dirty cops and gangsters when his pregnant wife is kidnapped and he’s under orders to break a known hitman out of prison. Not only did it get a lot of praise but there have been multiple remakes in South Korea, Bangla, a Tamil-language remake and there were even plans for a Bollywood remake, although I can’t find if that one ever got made. With so many countries remaking it you can almost tell that there was an inevitable remake to come from America because subtitles are hard to read and originality is not required anymore so instead let’s take something that was relatively popular somewhere else, slap America on it and we’re good to go… I mean, it’s not great but I’ve seen worse translations.
Point Blank takes the same story as the original (obviously, it’s a remake), with ER nurse Paul (Anthony Mackie) running between his job and home to his pregnant wife Taryn (Teyonah Parris) who is currently just 3 weeks away from her due date. One day, Paul’s house is broken into and he’s knocked out while his wife is kidnapped. When Paul wakes up he’s told to break a man out of the hospital otherwise Taryn will be killed. The man Paul is asked to break out is Abe Guevara (Frank Grillo), a criminal who may have murdered the towns D.A.. Paul manages to break Abe out but soon learns that not only did Abe not kill the D.A., but he was also framed by a bunch of dirty cops who Abe has enough info on to expose them to the world. So now Paul has to try and help Abe get to his brother Mateo (Christian Cooke) who is the guy who kidnapped Taryn and while they’re dealing with all this, they have to try and not get in the crosshairs of Lt. Regina Lewis (Marcia Gay Harden) who is trying to hunt them down.
While this film is nowhere near great, there’s still a lot to enjoy about it. The interactions between the main set of actors is a lot of fun and create some interesting dynamics. Scenes where Taryn is talking to Mateo are some of the most engaging in the film, a strange kidnapper-kidnapped relationship that evolves interestingly and gives both actors a ton to work with. I also genuinely loved any scene with Abe and Paul because the actors have a lot of chemistry and worked off each other well, showing a change in power dynamics as the film went on. I do worry that Frank Grillo is now typecast as “Guy who shoots the cops, but you still like him while he does it” because he seems to be doing that a fair bit, but hell, if it pays the bills then why not go for it. Lastly, most importantly, Marcia Gay Harden is perfect and I won’t hear a bad word said about her performance. Then again, I don’t think anyone could say anything bad about a Marcia Gay Harden performance because she has never given a bad one in her life and I defy you to prove me wrong, and before you say Fifty Shades you are still wrong because she was amazing in those movies, it’s just the movies that sucked. Anyway, her role is probably my favourite in the entire film. There’s one particular moment when something major about her character is revealed and her entire performance shifts and it’s just so good, watch the film just for her work alone.
Now, all these great actors have one big problem and that’s that the film is heavily underwritten. The plot is a little hard to follow at times and some scenes (everything involving a character called Big D) feel pointless. What’s interesting about this film are the dynamics with the various pairings of main characters, so when we have to veer away from that to deal with paying off drug dealers then the film screeches to a halt so it can name drop movies the write liked and really wants you to associate with this film. Seriously, everything involving Big D (Markice Moore) is pointless and kind of drags us down.
The dialogue at times goes beyond cheesy, to the point it can pull an actual groan out with some of the bad lines they try and pull. The actors certainly try to make all the lines work and I commend them on the attempt, but entire conversations in the third person just to hammer in the characters names so we know them when they’re yelled later? Yeah, that’s not exactly great. There are just a few exchanges that don’t work all for me and with a few more goes at the script they could’ve been buffed out.
Then we get to the visual style and the film is… well, perfunctory would be a good word choice here. They shoot without any real care, the car chases were hard to follow because of how they were edited and some shots just flat out made no sense. Why is everyone using the rotating shot nowadays? You know the one where the camera zooms in on a subject and spins around slowly so the ground is where the sky is? I see that kind of shot so often and it seldom has any point other than to show off that you have a cool camera rig. This film does that and a few other weird shots for no other reason except “I CAN DO THIS!” Maybe if it made it highly stylised this kind of shot could work, but it’s not. There are times they can barely pull off a dolly shot without the camera shaking so I don’t think they have the time for stylism.
At the end of the day, Point Blank is good enough to be a fun escape for a couple of hours. Its problems aren’t offensive or shocking; they’re just part of what happens when you don’t fully commit to something. I’m not saying I’d fully recommend this film, but if you were looking for a way to spend an hour and a half then I’ve had worse times. Besides, again, that Marcia Gay Harden performance… seriously, name a bad performance of hers in the comments, I dare you.