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June 14, 2013

À bout portant

by Franz Patrick


À bout portant (2010)
★★★ / ★★★★

Samuel (Gilles Lellouche), a nurse’s aid and an expecting father, saves Hugo (Roschdy Zem), a man who was run over by a motorcycle while trying to escape from two men who wished to kill him, when someone visits the hospital to cut off his air supply. The next morning, a masked man breaks into Samuel’s home, knocks him out, and kidnaps his pregnant wife (Elena Anaya). He is instructed to take Hugo out of the hospital without anyone noticing and not to contact the police or else Nadia and the baby will be killed.

“À bout portant,” written by Fred Cavayé and Guillaume Lemans, takes glamour out of Paris and makes it a grimy, dangerous, corrupt place. No one is to be trusted, especially the hardboiled cops who have grown to expect that violence is part of the norm. In their profession, this is almost a necessary thing–like drinking a cup of coffee in the morning.

Two police squads are assigned on the case. Werner (Gérard Lanvin) and his team are corrupt and merciless. They will do absolutely anything to protect a USB drive that contains sensitive information directly related to the suspect involved in the death of a wealthy businessman. On the other hand, Fabre (Mireille Perrier) and her team represent justice. The tension increases as they are mostly kept in the dark by the former and are forced to play catch-up on whatever is going on.

The chase sequences are thrilling mainly because the focal point is Samuel, a regular guy thrusted into an incredible situation. There are some funny bits that showcases his inexperience such as having to hit someone on the head with a gun more than once in order to knock a person unconscious. Despite the danger constantly closing in, the looks on his face during perfectly executed scenes are great reminders that Samuel is no action hero. He is a desperate husband and father who simply wants to save his wife and future daughter.

There is a lot of running all over Paris. The most impressive chase sequence involves the good cops chasing Samuel in and out of apartment buildings and into an overcrowded subway station. The regular folks’ ennui from the daily commute are interrupted by gunshots and a man with a bloody head crazily huffing, puffing, and pushing people out of the way. The entire time, we wait for Samuel’s luck to run out. We anticipate threats: falling over, a dead end, a random burly Parisian who cannot be knocked out of the way.

I wished there were more scenes of Susini (Claire Pérot), one of the most loyal cops on Pierret’s side. There is something about the performer’s angular face and her character’s hunger to prove herself as an exemplary solider of justice that made me want to watch her do more things. Since she is so intent on solving the case, I was curious as to what lengths she will go to attain it.

Directed by Fred Cavayé, “À bout portant,” also known as “Point Blank,” is efficient in terms of story, direction, and entertainment. I admired the ending. In most Hollywood movies, a regular man who goes through a bloody tribulation gets to live happily ever after. Samuel does not. At least not really. The past may be behind him but it looks in his direction constantly. Sometimes he is reminded to look behind him and there is the past looking right back.

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