Film of the week

Point Blank (15)

4.00

Starring: Gilles Lellouche, Elena Anaya, Gerars Lanvin

The French writer-director Fred Cavayé has got the right stuff. His debut feature, the thriller Anything for Her (2008), was about a man so convinced of his wife's innocence that he breaks her out of prison. Hollywood liked it enough to remake it almost immediately as The Next Three Days, with Russell Crowe playing the unassuming Pittsburgh academic who turns daredevil escape artist. Cavayé's second film, Point Blank, is not unlike his first in depicting an ordinary man who goes to desperate lengths – assaulting police officers, kidnapping felons, jumping in front of trains – in order to save his wife. The film-maker is perhaps intent on creating a mini-genre of his own: the uxorious chase thriller.

He treats both parts of his job title with equal seriousness. As writer (partnered here by Guillaume Lemans) he constructs twisted plots whose sometimes tenuous hold on plausibility is underpinned by his muscular work as director. Some thrillers take the softly-softly approach to generating tension. Not this one. Cavayé hits the ground running with a tremendous chase scene as a man, nursing a gut wound, is pursued through night-time Paris by two gunmen. They're just about to finish him off in a busy underpass when a speeding motorcyclist collides with their quarry and pitches him into the middle of next week. "Job done", think the assassins, and slope off into the dark.

But our fugitive is not dead after all, fetching up in a hospital surrounded by breathing apparatus and attended by a trainee nurse, Samuel (Gilles Lellouche), a personable guy whose wife is pregnant with their first child. The police are called in after Samuel foils a murder attempt on the stricken fugitive, who turns out to be a notorious safecracker named Sartet (Roschdy Zem). Samuel, the have-a-go-hero, gets a ticking-off from his snitty superior, of course, because his priority should have been consulting the doctor before saving the patient (and we thought our health service was in bad shape). If only that was an end of it; instead, Samuel gets coldcocked in his flat by a mystery assailant, then wakes up to find his wife Nadia (Elen Anaya) has been kidnapped. The blackmail message comes through loud and mean – get Sartet (now under police guard) out of that hospital, or his pregnant missus dies.

Well, anything for her, as the Cavayé hero would say, and this time it's only a hospital to be escaped rather than a high-security prison. All the same, it's a tough one to crack, and the upshot is that Samuel gets on the wrong side of a police conspiracy involving the murder of a well-known plutocrat – and his wife is now hostage to a different set of goons. On the old "my-enemy's-enemy" reasoning, he makes a reluctant partnership with Sartet, the original target of the bad-apple cops who used him on a job and then intended to bump him off. This is where Cavayé's strong direction comes into its own, for however often the plot bends under the weight of unlikeliness it never breaks: momentum is always on its side. As is style, in long pursuits down stairwells, across buildings and eventually through Le Metro, with the breathless Samuel giving even Jason Bourne some competition for leaping, sprinting and vanishing in tight spaces. Gilles Lellouche, playing Samuel, doesn't look a natural action man, but there's nothing forced or false about his panicked expression as he skitters down an escalator, knocking outraged commuters aside.

That Metro scene, by the way, with a thuggish skinhead terrorising the hero, stirred agreeable memories of another French thriller I haven't seen in 25 years or more. At first I thought it was mere fancy on my part; then, in a follow-up scene, Samuel enters a room in which the famous aria "Ebben? Ne andrò Lontana" from La Wally is playing – the same one that featured in the moody 1980s classic Diva. Whether this is Cavayé's deliberate nod is difficult to say, but the link is there, and it made me want to check whether Diva is still a classic, or merely moody.

Point Blank also gets its casting spot-on, especially in the case of Roschdy Zem as Sartet, whose haunting, angular features made such an impression in Rachid Bouchareb's colonial Algeria dramas Days of Glory (2006) and Outside the Law (2010). He hardly says a thing while Samuel stitches his torn stomach wound, but he doesn't need to, so expressive is that saturnine gaze (you can tell from it that Sartet asks himself, perhaps more than once, whether he should kill Samuel and ease his own escape). There are two other great faces here, one Gerard Lanvin, the other Mireille Perrier, playing rival commanders on the force whose overlapping jurisdictions bring them into conflict: they both have that very French way of projecting vast reserves of style and steel. Their final encounter with each other has a genuine shock in store.

The film packs in so much one is surprised to learn that it runs for less than 90 minutes. Even during the somewhat incredible denouement at a chaotic police station, Alain Duplantier's camerawork is so frenetic you don't have time to stop and question it. As with Cavayé's first film, it's too entertaining to avoid being swallowed by Hollywood's giant maw and regurgitated as a remake. But why wait for a knock-off set in New York or LA when you can get the original right now, fresh as this morning's baguette?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn