'Point Blank' (R)

At the start of the breakneck thriller Point Blank, life is good for Samuel (Gilles Lelouche): He’s in line for a promotion at the hospital where he works as a nurse’s aide, his wife Nadia (Elena Anaya) is nearly eight months pregnant with their first child and the future seems exceedingly bright for the happy couple.

All that changes, though, when the authorities bring an injured perp, Hugo (Roschdy Zem), to the hospital for medical treatment. After Samuel chases away a stranger trying to disconnect Hugo’s respirator, thugs show up at his home, kidnap his wife and tell him he must somehow get the criminal out of the hospital and deliver him to a prearranged spot — even though Hugo is now under police guard.

What ensues is a breathless feature-length chase between Samuel, Hugo, the cops and the crooks holding Nadia hostage, jam-packed with sudden twists of plot and cliffhangers in which our hero’s goose seems to be thoroughly cooked. Aside from the title, Point Blank bears no relation to John Boorman’s crime drama. But the film is a worthy counterpart to the 1967 cult classic, sporting the same relentless, unsparing pacing and fury.

Suggestive of what might have been if Alfred Hitchcock had made a Bruce Willis action picture, Point Blank was directed by Fred Cavayé, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Guillaume Lemans. Cavayé resists the temptation to clutter his movie with needless exposition or supporting characters: The film runs a lean and mean 84 minutes, and the unwavering focus keeps the picture from ever losing speed. The familiar scenario of an ordinary man thrust into extraordinary circumstances has rarely been this breathless.

Point Blank is as disposable as a feature-length episode of TV’s 24: The movie is all adrenaline and excitement, and it doesn’t really stay with you. Just try to tear your eyes away while you’re watching it, though. Cavayé’s previous film, Pour elle (Anything for Her), was remade by Hollywood last year as The Next Three Days, with Russell Crowe. Chances are good that Point Blank, too, will generate an English-language counterpart. There’s no need to wait for that, however, when the genuine article is available right now.

Cast: Gilles Lelouche, Roschdy Zem, Elena Anaya, Gerard Lanvin, Mireille Perrier.

Director: Fred Cavayé.

Screenwriters: Guillaume Lemans, Fred Cavayé.

Producers: Cyril Colbeau-Justin, Jean-Baptiste Dupont.

A Magnolia Pictures release. Running time: 84 minutes. In French with English subtitles. Vulgar language, violence, gore, adult themes.Opens Friday Sept. 2 in Miami-Dade: South Beach, Coral Gables Art Cinema; in Palm Beach: Shadowood, Living Room, Delray Beach.


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