It’s already clear that French filmmaker Fred Cavayé makes the kind of films Hollywood wishes it made; it only took a couple of years for his 2008 debut, Pour Elle, to get an American remake, 2010’s Russell Crowe thriller The Next Three Days. And if the tense, terrifically efficient Point Blank is any indication, you’ll see plenty more of his movies translated for multiplexes.
But there’s no need to wait when the original provides such a jolt. The opening moments barrel into a setup with a wounded man (Roschdy Zem) fleeing unknown gunmen before he’s struck by a motorcycle. In the hospital, the injured man—a wanted thief named Hugo—still seems to be a target for violence, but he’s saved by Samuel (Gilles Lelouche), a nurse’s aide. And that act unexpectedly puts Samuel in the center of life-threatening danger, as his pregnant wife, Nadia (Elena Anaya), is kidnapped to force him into helping Hugo.
“Pregnant wife in peril” isn’t exactly a subtle way of raising the stakes, but it’s an effective one. Cavayé provides just enough context for Samuel and Nadia’s relationship to allow the emotional hook to work, and Lelouche smartly plays the kind of suspense-film Everyman-in-over-his-head that Hitchcock would have adored. There’s something satisfyingly real-world about watching this simple protagonist run for his life for what feels like eight solid minutes, then immediately vomit once he’s safe.
That chase is just one of several Cavayé packs into Point Blank’s 84 minutes, but he includes just enough offbeat creativity—like gun-toting bad guys accidentally bumping into an armored-truck crew carrying bags of cash, who assume incorrectly that they’re being held up—that it doesn’t feel like one wearying, nonstop sprint. Watching a slick genre exercise like this one reminds you how rarely Hollywood gets the simple grammar of cinematic suspense right—which is why you’ll likely be seeing this same story in English ’round about 2013.
Gilles Lelouche, Roschdy Zem, Elena Anaya