Hugo Sartet (Roschdy Zem) burst out of a building at night with two men in hot pursuit, but he is impeded by the deep wound in his belly which is slowing his progress. He rushes down the stairs as best he can and into the near-deserted street, then finally ends up at a tunnel where the occasional vehicle passes, unable to run anymore. Just as the two pursuers catch up with him and point their guns at him, he braces himself but is suddenly run over by a motorcycle and the would-be assassins are forced to flee since the accident has drawn a crowd. In the hospital Hugo is taken to, a trainee nurse, Samuel Pierret (Gilles Lellouche) happens to be on duty...
It's safe to say Point Blank - the English title for À bout portant, not to be confused with the sixties Lee Marvin thriller - didn't hang around in getting to the action, and every time there was a seeming lull in the plot director Fred Cavayé would abruptly get antsy and swiftly introduce another jolt of kinetic energy, therefore allowing the audience enough time to get their bearings, but not enough to get to grips on the latest twist he was throwing in their faces. In truth, those twists were not so much shocking as oddly expected, as France had produced a number of high octane thrillers in this century and this one fit that template like a glove.
Cavayé had already proven his worth with his previous effort Anything for Her, but if anything it appeared as though he regarded that one as far too plot heavy, and was trying to pare everything down to the barest essentials. If that was indeed his aim, you couldn't say he didn't give it a damn good try, creating a movie that truly moved though not quite escaping the accusation that keeping things simple might have also kept things simplistic. Fortunately for the entertainment value, he was blessed with a dynamic cast who plunged into his storyline, as basic as it was, with a high degree of enthusiasm, be they on the right side of the law or the other, though that distinction grows blurry.
The hapless Samuel is introduced cooing over his pregnant girlfriend Nadia (Elena Anaya) so this being the sort of film it was, we could tell that domestic bliss was about to be seriously disrupted, and we would guess right as when he saves the life of Hugo he gets embroiled in a murder plot. The thought that Samuel should have minded his own business instead of trying to do the right thing was a pressing one, but the theme was how if acting morally can land you in hot water, it held its own rewards when you could be satisfied you had behaved correctly. Which was all very well, but you still had to counter the fact that during the course of the rest of the movie all hell broke loose.
No sooner than Samuel returns home, goes to sleep and wakes up the next morning, than someone beats him to the floor and kidnaps Nadia. He wakes up again, this time with a major headache, and hears his phone ringing; on answering a man tells him he must liberate Hugo from the hospital or his girlfriend dies. That she is heavily pregnant makes it all the more imperative our hero succeeds in sorting this mess out, and Point Blank was one of those movies where you just knew that if something could happen to turn up the heat under the protagonist, then the director would quite happily do so - before long that baby is going to be born. Samuel carries out the mystery man's orders, but the cops are after them and he and Hugo strike up an unlikely and wary partnership thanks to not every policeman being as noble and upstanding as society might demand of them. We were in conspiracy territory after a fashion, leaving Samuel (and the audience) unsure of who to trust, and that made for unfussy and effective thrills. Music by Klaus Badelt.