The French crime thriller Point Blank (Magnolia), not to be confused with John Boorman’s 1967 post-noir masterpiece, opens in full sprint and pretty much stays in that adrenaline-pumping state. Sure, we get a peaceful interlude with nursing student Samuel (Gilles Lellouche) and his pregnant wife (Elena Anaya of “The Skin I Live In”) to show just what’s at stake before his life is yanked from under him: his wife (under orders for bedrest) is kidnapped to force him to slip a wounded criminal (Roschdy Zem) from the hospital before the police come to question him… or kill him, as it turns out. Samuel ends up in the middle of a murderous conspiracy — damned if he’s caught by the good cops, dead if the corrupt cops get him first — and his only hope to get him and his wife out alive is to team up with Zem’s Hugo, a safecracker framed for murder by the same killer cops. He’s the kind of super-talented crook with a moral streak that crime movies love so much and Zem is an actor who can make that cliché work.
The script doesn’t always hold up to the light of day, but director and co-screenwriter Fred Cavaye drives the film with so much furious, pulse-pounding momentum, powered by an overwhelming sense of panic and paranoia, that you don’t have much time to worry about it. And at under 85 minutes (including end credits) the film doesn’t get tangled up in unnecessary side stories or blind alleys. (I can just imagine an American remake – and surely someone is trying to make that happen, as they did with his earlier “Anything for Her,” which became “The Next Three Days” – dragging it out in further twists and turns.) If the premise is familiar (the nice-guy innocent forced to become ruthless lawbreaker to survive) the execution and evocation of the gritty nocturnal Paris underworld makes is zing. In French with English subtitles. On DVD and Blu-ray, both with a behind-the-scenes featurette.