Point Blank [2019]

Point Blank 1a

Starring: Frank Grillo, Anthony Mackie & Teyonah Parris
Directed by: Joe Lynch

Distributed by: Netflix
Release Date: July 2019
Running Time: 86 mins

Synopsis: When his pregnant wife is kidnapped and held as collateral, Paul, an ER nurse, must team with the badly injured career criminal and murder suspect under his charge in order to save the lives of his wife and unborn child. Pitted against rival gangs and a deadly ring of corrupt cops, the unlikely duo find a way to survive together in the fight of their lives.

The buddy-cop genre has been a staple of action movies ever since it was popularised in the 1980s with films like 48 Hrs, Beverly Hills Cop and Lethal Weapon. It continued throughout the 90s with films like Rush Hour and Bulletproof, and has become deconstructed and revitalised in recent years through films such as Hot Fuzz, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Other Guys. Released as a Netflix original movie, Point Blank harkens back to those simpler buddy-cop movies of the 80s when a hospital nurse finds himself working with a mercenary to expose police corruption and rescue his kidnapped wife. While Point Blank features racially diverse leads like many of its predecessors, it doesn’t use this to form the conflict or culture shock between the two; Anthony Mackie’s Paul is a decent guy brought into the situation against his will, whilst Frank Grillo’s Abe is a selfish criminal and this forms the personality clashes.

Mackie and Grillo are both great actors and they have good chemistry together, but the short running time of the film (86 mins) really doesn’t give the two actors enough time to work on the relationship between the pair. It feels like it needed an additional 15 mins worth of character development to flesh out their motivations, making some of the moments feel unearned. With these types of films, there is a general trajectory for the relationship to follow and for the sake of brevity, the film doesn’t quite hit those milestones, leaving the partnership feeling unearned. Ironically, there seemed to be a better character arc / relationship between Teyonah Parris’ character Taryn and her conflicted captor, Mateo (Christian Cooke). I was impressed by the performance of both, especially since these were two characters who would typically be shuffled off-screen for the majority of the movie, but were given a decent amount of screen-time here. For the most part, the story is somewhat derivative of other films in the genres and the villains of the piece are almost identifiable from the moment they appear on-screen, although I’m not sure the film intends that to be the case since the moment one of the cops reveals their true nature is played as a shock.

Point Blank 1b

The storyline of the film is a serviceable enough buddy-cop movie, and while there are some fun one-liners and banter between the two leads, there are also plenty of clichéd elements of script writing; such as a USB McGuffin, a pregnant woman giving birth at the worse moment and convenient camera evidence exonerating everyone, etc. There were also some moments that stretched credibility beyond belief (for one, I don’t think any news channel would air uncensored CCTV footage of a policeman being executed) and a general lack of any stand-out action set-pieces. The one interesting action sequence was when Paul & Abe had to defeat one of the corrupt policemen in a drive-through carwash, culminating in some amusing thrown punches amidst the automatic scrubbers. There’s just nothing here that hasn’t been done before, and better. Apparently the film is a remake of the French film Point Blank, released in 2010, and it seems the original has a more serious tone than this version.

Both Anthony Mackie and Frank Grillo are actors who normally bring a natural charm to their roles, but here they are limited by an uninspired script that never allows them to fully showcase their personalities and have fun. In fact, it feels like each of the supporting characters are given more opportunities to shine than the two leads, who are forced to re-enact a ‘paint-by-numbers’ buddy-cop storyline. The film lacks any real tension, despite the central conceit of a pregnant woman held hostage, and lacks any real sense of depth even during a pivotal death scene. Both actors are capable of better, especially Grillo, who has impressed me in the past as the lead in Wheelman and Boss Level. While it is true that the buddy-cop genre does have a rigid format, other films in recent history such as Hot Fuzz and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang have proved that there are fresh and exciting ways to tell the same old story without relying on clichés and familiar tropes.

On a technical level, Point Blank is a competent enough film, although it is unlikely to place anywhere near a Top 10 list of ‘buddy-cop’ movies due to its blandness and lack of individuality. Throwing two popular actors together as mismatched partners only works if the script is tailored to their strengths, and no matter how charismatic Mackie and Grillo are, they cannot energize the formulaic plot. I would be interested to check out the original French version of the film to see whether it flows better with a more serious tone and whether this is another case of an American remake missing the essence of the source material.

Score – ★★★

Point Blank is available to stream exclusively on Netflix.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.