Point Blank throws a lot of ideas at the wall without ever committing to any one of them, resulting in a thriller that's more confusing than exciting.
The latest Netflix Original movie, Point Blank reunites Marvel Cinematic Universe costars Anthony Mackie and Frank Grillo for a barebones B-movie from cult director Joe Lynch (Knights of Badassdom, Mayhem). A loose remake of the 2010 French action-thriller of the same name, Point Blank hits the ground running (somewhat literally) and attempts to tap into Mackie and Grillo's screen chemistry to deliver a worthwhile buddy film that takes a whole lot of twists and turns in a fairly small amount of time (right under 90 minutes, in fact). Unfortunately, the movie spends so much energy on trying to subvert expectations that it forgets to tell a compelling story along the way. Point Blank throws a lot of ideas at the wall without ever committing to any one of them, resulting in a thriller that's more confusing than exciting.
Mackie stars in Point Blank as Paul, an ER nurse who hopes to become a doctor one day, but has other things on his mind at the moment - namely, his pregnant wife Taryn (Teyonah Parris), who is due to give birth to their son in three weeks. However, when Paul is assigned to care for a badly-injured career criminal named Abe (Grillo), who's been brought to the hospital under mysterious circumstances, Abe's younger brother Mateo (Christian Cooke) kidnaps Taryn and holds her hostage as collateral. Left with no other choice, Paul is forced to break Abe out of the hospital and take him to meet up with Mateo without alerting the police in the process. With hard-edged Detective Regina Lewis (Marcia Gay Harden) hot on their tail, Paul and Abe soon find themselves tangled in a deadly web of gangsters and corrupt cops... and no one to turn to for help but each other.
Many of Point Blank's problems seem to stem from the script by Adam G. Simon (Man Down), which continuously holds information back in an effort to make the film seem like more than one long chase sequence - which, for the most part, is exactly what it is. The approach partly works in the beginning; Point Blank starts off feeling like a lean, mean action movie that morphs into a buddy adventure just as quickly, all within the first half hour or so. Lynch knows better than to let his foot off the gas pedal during all this and serves up a string of fast-cutting action scenes while constantly changing up the setting (from a foot-chase through a hospital to a fist-fight in a car wash), in order to keep things interesting. However, by the time the film shifts gears again and morphs into a dramatic thriller about the thin line between cops and criminals before even reaching its half-way point, the effect wears off and Point Blank becomes somewhat exhausting to watch (in a bad way).
Because it keeps trying to be so many things at the same time, Point Blank has an equally hard time fleshing out Paul and Abe as characters. The pair are presented as foils at first, with Paul embodying a more nurturing sense of masculinity that contrasts with Abe's gruff manner. While the idea is that they gradually come to relate to each other and recognize that they're both just working-class people trying to care for their families, Point Blank struggles to show how the two reach this understanding over the course of their journey together - and in the end, Mackie and Grillo's relaxed chemistry isn't enough to make up for the flaws in Paul and Abe's development, either. Something similar could be said for Detective Regina Lewis and her own role in the larger conspiracy at hand, despite Harden's efforts to bring the character more depth than the script provides. Parris is also wasted in the role of Taryn, who's only really included so that her pregnancy can serve as the equivalent of a ticking time-bomb that keeps the plot flowing steadily.
Point Blank once again tries to pull the rug out for under viewers' feet in its third act by throwing some comedy into the mix, along with some self-reflexive humor that speaks to Lynch's roots as a cinephile. It works well enough on its own, but clashes with the heavy emotional moments that unfold in the film's second half, resulting in some jarring tonal dissonance from scene to scene. The movie runs out of gas by this point too and ends up scrambling to try and tie everything up in a neat and tidy bow. As a result, the film's payoffs to its story threads and themes are largely unsatisfying and the whole thing ends up feeling pretty rough around the edges. It's really too bad; there's something admirable about the way Point Blank aspires to buck genre conventions, even if it never figures out how to smoothly blend its various elements together.
Altogether, Point Blank is yet another unmemorable Netflix Original movie that could've been something better, had it gone through some additional refinement. Instead, it's a film that makes for passable entertainment to watch at home, especially for those who are just looking for something to distract them, but takes less than two hours to get through. Mackie and Grillo remain engaging action movie actors and their fans have plenty to look forward from them over the next year, but it's hard to imagine that this is what they had in mind when they learned that the pair were teaming up with Lynch for a gritty crime thriller.
Point Blank is now streaming on Netflix. It is 86 minutes long.
- Point Blank (2019) release date: Jul 12, 2019