Danger After Dark 2011: POINT BLANK; a Boozie Movie review!

PB final.jpgThe most fitting analogy for watching Fred Cavaye's Point Blank is the type of drunk I got from the cocktail I was sneakily slurping out of a straw at its Philly premiere at the 2011 Danger After Dark Film Festival.  For a blisteringly hot and humid mid July night, I decided to fill the magical film reviewing flask with something a bit sweeter than the usual, something that would best mix with a cold and refreshing fountain drink.  In other words, I didn't want to get caught with booze from the sounds of unlocking the flask again.

What started as a self imposed dare turned into a brilliant idea.  While I was initially appalled to discover Jim Bean's brand new Red Stag cherry infused whiskey on sale at the local state store, I decided not only was I going to buy the candy flavored well whiskey, but that I was going to down the majority the bottle during Point Blank. While the bourbon first tastes like cough syrup and gasoline, when mixed with diet coke, it suddenly becomes a most delicious summertime drink.

A bit too sweet, yet oddly nuanced, my experiment went down smoothly.  Low on calories, but still packing an unexpected wallop, it did the job quick but ultimately left me with a hangover almost as soon as I was done drinking it. Getting lit from my new favorite concoction was a nearly identical experience to watching the film.

It's a shame Point Blank is named Point Blank.  In no way is the film related to the great Lee Marvin film noir, nor does the title really relate to anything in the story.  If it weren't for Zak Snyder's train wreck earlier this year, I'd suggest Sucker Punch or even Grip Throat or Break Neck as titles as that's exactly what the film does. It's a sucker punch that grips the viewer by the throat and pulls through a roller coaster ride at a break neck pace that doesn't let up til the credits roll. Point Blank hits the ground running from its opening shot and never stops to catch its breath.  Unfortunately, Point Blank is a fitting title in one regard.

The film's actual story and the characters that drive it are painfully bland and generic. There isn't a single original or memorable idea throughout the entire film. The film's actual plot is about as distinctive as the film's title. But akin to The Man from No Where, the material is handled with such controlled skill that it ends up being far more impressive than it has any right to be.

It's difficult to summarize the film's plot as the majority of it hinges on surprising reveals.  Samuel is a nurse in training who rescues a patient (Hugo) from a failed assasinaion attempt after being injured in a violent motorcycle accident. When Samuel returns home, he is attacked by myserious intruders and his pregnant wife is kidnapped. He is given three hours by her captors to release the patient from the hospital and deliver him for execution.  If Samuel calls the police his wife and unborn child are as good as dead. Samuel loves his wife and doesn't hesitate to attack doctors and police officers in order to sneak Hugo out of the hospital. The basic setup takes no more than five minutes before leading into a non-stop chase where Samuel and Hugo must evade hired killers, the police, and other forces while uncovering the truth and finding a way to rescue Sam's wife.

A slick thriller of the highest caliber on a technical level, Fred Cavaye's much anticipated follow up to Anything for Her is likely to garner a loyal fan base.

Oh, have you never heard of Anything for Her? Unfortunately, neither had I until yesterday. This was surprising, seeing that it was remade into a big budget Hollywood vehicle for Paul Haggis and Russell Crowe.  Yes, Cavaye's debut feature was the basis for last year's The Next 3 Days. Having now caught up on the original, Cavaye has revealed himself as a major new talent in the genre realm that I'll be keeping a keen eye on from here on in.

Point Blank's greatest strength, so much so that it almost feels like a gimmick, is its break neck pacing. Point Blank recalls the same non-stop blood lust inducing thrills of Taken, only it skips all of the hokey bullshit at the beginning.  While Cavaye takes the time (maybe 2 minutes) to introduce the film's main characters and their motivations, there's very little of any type of conventional set up. If you were to watch the film's magnificent trailer, you may believe that you've just seen the bulk of the entire film.  It appears to be a rather spoilerrific trailer, but just about everything in the European preview only covers the first 15 minutes. I'd love to read through the screenplay, I imagine it's about 60 pages of sentence fragments followed by paragraph long run ons. 

Yet, the film doesn't cheat the audience out of pivotal character development, it simply ignores needless exposition. Cavaye is so expertly economic with his story telling that he's able to hit every noted needed with little more than a single line of dialogue.

Things are largely predictable though. Point Blank is rife with the type of standard surprise twists that have been fueling CSI and Law & Order episodes for the last two decades. Yet, through solid direction and expertly staged action set pieces, there's enough suspense and "oh shit" moments sprinkled through out to keep a drunkard like myself  engaged.  Point Blank is a palette cleanser, an inoffensive and safe crowd pleasure that offers little to reflect on.

Point Blank is the type of generic yet fun European thriller that seems tailor made to exist for the sole purpose of inspiring a bigger budget, even more generic, yet less fun Hollywood remake. In all likelihood, Point Blank will never see any type of decent release in the U.S. I'm sure someone already holds the North American distro rights but are sitting on it until the Gary Gray/Tony Scott/ Antoine Fuquoi helmed adaptation starring Russell Crowe/Colin Farrell hits screens sometime early spring next year.

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