It's grand larceny for the French crime thriller "Point Blank" to lift its title from the stylish 1967 Lee Marvin underworld classic. But since the new film is such a rocket-fueled wrong-man nail-biter, charges are dismissed.
Writer/director Fred Cavayé's film is an amped-up sequel to his tense "Anything for Her," in which a schoolteacher engineers a daring prison break to free his wrongfully convicted wife. This time around the abundantly talented filmmaker gives us a male nurse trapped between vicious criminals and malevolent cops as he tries to rescue his kidnapped, hugely pregnant wife.
Once again, the ordinary man quickly finds himself out of his depth in a nightmare world where conventional notions of morality don't apply. To do right, our hero becomes a desperate criminal.
The husband, Samuel Pierret (Gilles Lellouche), has the kind of battered mug that looks guilty on "wanted" posters. When he's attacked in his apartment by unknown assailants who take his lovely wife, he has no choice but to follow their orders.
The kidnappers' quarry is mystery man Hugo Sartet (Roschdy Zem), who arrived in the emergency ward unconscious, and under police surveillance, following a spectacularly filmed pedestrian-motorcyclist accident. If Pierret fails to smuggle Sartet out of the hospital in three hours, his wife dies. With a few swift shoves, the quiet caregiver's law-abiding life is shattered and he's a felon on the run.
As the noose tightens around our hero's neck, we feel our own throats tighten. It's even money whether Pierret is in more peril from the vicious kidnappers, the shoot-first police on his tail, or Sartet, a lean, menacing character with lightning reflexes and eyes like gun turrets. He's a bracing contrast to the frantic Pierret, whose surging emotions threaten to short-circuit his capacity for clear thinking.
Complications mount fast and furiously as the fugitive Pierret becomes the prime suspect in an industrialist's murder. He must team up with tough guy Sartet to survive, but Sartet could whack him at any moment. The finale, involving a flash mob crime wave that turns a police station into bedlam, pulls together the story's multiple lines of intrigue for a ferociously exciting climax.
The acting is impeccable from top to bottom, and the relentless pace keeps us from fretting about niggling defects. The movie really should have borrowed the title of another 1960s classic: "Breathless."