by Tresa Rentler
We’ve come a long way from the dark, mysterious, noir crime-thrillers of the 1930s and 40s and perhaps even further from the hyper-stylized bond films of the 60s and 70s. Understanding that modern audiences desire more action, threats, and grit from their thrillers is something we have seen integrated into film historically.
In Fred Cavaye’s Point Blank (2010), we are taken through the small underground crime circle of the French fringe police force. Samuel Pierret is a nurse’s aide who must rescue his kidnapped pregnant wife after walking in on an assassin trying to kill one of his patients, an apparent enemy of the force. After joining forces with the supposed criminal, the two are on the lam as they outrun attackers and attempt to break into the police station to rescue his very pregnant wife.
Unlike its predecessors in the classic thriller genre, Point Blank differs in several ways and, in fact, has more in common with American action-thrillers, most notably Taken (2008). A gritty, high-stakes trek, the film takes the audience through the seedy French urban underground. Conversations between characters are liminal and insignificant, as most of the story progresses through action, mainly physical violence. Unfortunately, it is not enough to suspend disbelief for the characters and their motivations. Right off the bat, the film asks the audience to distrust a huge, highly-surveillanced police force. Then, that an officer of the law would break into an emergency ward unnoticed, be allowed access to life-support machinery and have the due diligence to then notice and track down the one nurse who saw him. Thus foiling his plan. Most abrasively, the film expects the audience to believe that this group of off-beat cops would be permitted to keep an innocent woman held hostage in the police station and could successfully attempt to kill her if tracking the perp down didn’t go according to plan. Ridiculous.
Thrillers, especially action-thrillers, are no strangers to unrealistic natures. However, Point Blank fails in ways where so many have succeeded. Such female-led thrillers as Gone Girl (2014) and Sleeping with the Enemy (1991) follow characters in distress through terrific, yet believable situations: abusive, yet charming spouses that hide in plain sight, disappearing without a trace, and exacting revenge in ways that don’t involve violence. Like horror, the most effective thrill doesn't come from situations that seem impossible, but the opposite.