Anthony Mackie and Frank Grillo Stumble Their Way Through Netflix’s ‘Point Blank’
Director-producer Joe Carnahan clearly wants Frank Grillo to be America’s go to man behind a gun. It’s easy to see why. Grillo’s chiseled features, gruff voice and immovably tough persona would likely be what a computer program would give you if asked to create an ’80s action hero. However, Carnahan can only be in so many places at once and has begun to outsource Grillo to other directors under his production arm, which seems to have found a comfy home on Netflix. That partnership led us to last year’s “Wheelman,” which left Grillo stuck in neutral. This year, we have “Point Blank,” the fourth remake of a popular French pulp flick from 2010.
We find nurse and expecting father Paul (Anthony Mackie) in a rather upsetting predicament. A small-time crook named Mateo (Christian Cooke) has kidnapped Paul’s wife Taryn (Teyonah Parris) and demands that Paul free his hospitalized brother Abe (Grillo) from police clutches. Abe was caught fleeing from the corpse of a local DA. If that isn’t spicy enough, Lieutenant Lewis (Marcia Gay Harden) becomes embroiled in the chaos as her vengeful hunt for the DA’s killer, and a mysterious flash drive with incriminating dirt on cops and robbers alike, comes to a head.
Mackie is a welcome presence in absolutely anything, and he does his best to ground this material in something real. He presents us with a kind, loving man who wears his purple scrubs with pride as he looks forward to better days. Exactly the kind of hero who can pull an audience into a story they’ve seen a hundred times. Unfortunately, the second he’s paired with Grillo, all of that humanity flies out the window. It’s been quite some time since an action duo has had such stiff “chemistry” as these two. All of their interactions boil down to them telling each other to shut up, keep moving, get down, stop crying and so on, with each line peppering in as many F-bombs as one breath can fit.
Any potential spark is completely extinguished by Grillo, who is proving to be exhaustingly one-note. He seems incapable of pulling out of his aggressive hyper-macho first gear, making any moments of kindness or camaraderie feel crowbarred in by the words on the page. He and Carnahan are clearly trying to craft a hogwash, “they don’t let real men like this be in movies anymore,” persona here and it falls completely flat. The only real sparks of life come from the supporting players. Parris and Cooke have a couple of well-executed tender moments as the Stockholm syndrome starts kicking in, and there is a welcome comedic assist from Markice Moore’s cinephile gangster in the third act.
Director Joe Lynch wants to deliver action sequences on par with what Carnahan would have given us if he were in the chair, but lacks both his producer’s seasoned style and sly sense of humor. He sometimes pushes against what the lackluster screenplay gives him, and opts for longer takes when characters are running around or brawling, but the shot compositions and choreography are clumsy. Even somewhat inspired moments, like a throwdown in an active carwash, go to waste because the camera loses track of the action, with awkward editing throwing off the momentum. Lynch then completely loses his confidence, throwing a random old lady into the mix for a gag that feels like a rejected Michael Bay B-Side. Meanwhile, high speed car chases and heist sequences are accompanied by a bass guitar-driven score that makes the “Seinfeld” theme sound like Hans Zimmer.
“Point Blank” really is the perfect title for this movie. It provides the bare, jagged pieces of what it promises in a sloppy but not completely unpalatable package. Grillo is as bored as Mackie is uncomfortable and as the barely 90-minute runtime sputters to a close, we’re right there with them.
“Point Blank” begins streaming July 12 on Netflix.