Movie Review - A Frantic, Nonstop Chase At 'Point Blank' Range A French import from Fred Cavayé follows an innocent man who must do a shady organization's bidding to rescue his pregnant wife. Bob Mondello says the art-house thriller whitens knuckles much better (and smarter) than its multiplex counterparts. (Recommended)
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A Frantic, Nonstop Chase At 'Point Blank' Range

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A Frantic, Nonstop Chase At 'Point Blank' Range

Review

Movies

A Frantic, Nonstop Chase At 'Point Blank' Range

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MICHELE NORRIS, host: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host: And I'm Robert Siegel. It's midsummer, and that means that the multiplex is full of action. It just so happens so are art house cinemas. Exhibit A, a new thriller from France. Its American title is "Point Blank." And while there's no relation to the 1960 shoot-them-up of the same name starring Lee Marvin, Bob Mondello says that like the earlier picture, this one is nonstop action.

BOB MONDELLO: Talk about starting with a bang. Here's the first few seconds of "Point Blank."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "POINT BLANK")

MONDELLO: A man crashes through a door, clutching his bleeding stomach. Seconds later, two men with guns crash after him. They chase him into the street and are about to kill him when he's hit by a speeding motorcycle...

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "POINT BLANK")

MONDELLO: ...and left in a coma.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "POINT BLANK")

MONDELLO: He is not having a good day, but it's better than the day Samuel is about to have. Samuel is a nurse trainee who saves this guy's life in the hospital.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "POINT BLANK")

MONDELLO: And proving that no good deed goes unpunished, this gets Samuel conked on the head and his very pregnant wife kidnapped.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "POINT BLANK")

MONDELLO: From there, things get complicated. Samuel's told that if he wants to see his wife again, he must spring the crash victim from police surveillance - remember, this guy is still in a coma - and then the kidnappers will talk. As you may have gathered, that's not quite how this is going to play out. Cue chase scene.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "POINT BLANK")

MONDELLO: It is customary to describe this kind of thriller as adrenaline-fueled, but this is the first time I can recall there being an actual shot of adrenaline on screen. Samuel uses it to wake the comatose crash victim, then kind of wishes he hadn't. Director Fred Cavaye has a reputation in France for getting the audience's pulse pounding, and in "Point Blank," he does that while mixing in some intriguing social themes. Call him an equal-opportunity thrill director. Usually, in fish-out-of-water stories, the fish is the outsider, surprised by the spot he finds himself in.

But in "Point Blank," the fish out of water is Samuel, the ultimate insider, a conventional, middle-class, white, French male. And the people who have power over him are all the folks French society tends to exclude or barely tolerate: Algerian criminals, gypsies, Arabs, even a corrupt cop with a German name. And to push things still further away from business as usual, the folks in a position to help Samuel are almost all strong, capable French women, who hardly seem the unassertive hothouse flowers they've been made out to be in news reports lately.

This all makes for a nifty subtext to ponder in the three minutes maybe of downtime between chases. And since subtext will almost certainly disappear in the inevitable Hollywood remake, it's worth catching and pondering now. "Point Blank" is just a chase flick at heart, too busy setting your nerves jangling to be very noir, but calculated to leave you breathless, anyway, even if not quite in the way the French New Wave "Breathless" did. I'm Bob Mondello.

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