Point Blank

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Point Blank

Run time 90 minutes
Not for children.

“Point Blank.”

If I weren’t on a scale of best out of five, I’d give this a six. Brilliantly directed by Fred Cavayé, this starts out with a bang and picks up speed from there. Because it’s not an American big studio film, it is pretty much devoid of special effects. It substitutes a good script and story instead.

Samuel Pierret (Gilles Lellouche) is a fledgling male nurse in a hospital who has a very pregnant wife, Nadia (Elena Anaya). Nadia is kidnapped. Samuel receives a call telling him that she will be killed unless he springs a wounded prisoner, Hugo Sartet (Roschdy Zem) from his hospital room.

That’s what you learn in the first ten minutes. The rest of the film is a non-stop, high tension, chase thriller with Samuel trying to save his wife while being pursued by lots of cops led by Superintendent Werner (Gerard Lanvin). There are lots of twists and turns to this that kept me riveted. I was so involved I didn’t even notice that I was reading subtitles, and can’t remember doing so even after the film has ended.

If this is not a perfect film, it’s a close as one could come. I don’t remember much foul language. There really isn’t much graphic violence. But it is an eminently believable story of an ordinary man suddenly thrust into high adventure, a genre created by novelist Eric Ambler in his string of highly successful World War II-era thrillers, and Samuel reacts in a way that is plausible.

Samuel sets off on a non-stop journey through Paris, into subways, hospitals, warehouses and police stations trying to find his wife. In the process he gets involved in an intricate plot involving lots of the people with whom he’s thrown into contact. It all seems to go from bad to worse.

There might be a few plot holes and there is one scene in which Samuel jumps from one high storied hotel room to a room in another hotel next to it that is impossible. But that’s not enough to tarnish the film.

The Hangover Part II

Run time 110 minutes.
Not for children.

From l, Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms in “The Hangover Part II.”

Writer/director/producer Todd Phillips hit the jackpot with The Hangover in 2009. The question was, what to do for an encore? He tried Due Date last year, which was a dud, to give it the best of it.

What Phillips decided was to make the same movie over again, almost identical. While in the scintillating original Phillips walked a fine line to keep from crossing over into vulgarity and smut, this derivative sequel explodes over that line and the result is unfunny, profane with abundant f-bombs, and worse, is often just disgusting.

The same cast — Bradley Cooper (Phil), Ed Helms (Stu), Zach Galifianakis (Alan) and Justin Bartha (Doug) — is back and they are playing the same roles and the same things happen to them. About the only difference is that the location is Bangkok instead of Las Vegas. Phillips didn’t even have the good sense to flood the film with eye-popping scenes of Bangkok.

The language is straight out of the gutter. The only person with any sense is Fohn (Nirut Sirijanya), Stu’s father-in-law to be. He sees Stu to be the nincompoop he really is and makes no secret of it. Yet Phillips paints him as a villain, which gives a pretty accurate picture of the state of Phillips’s values. He glorifies misfits while stigmatizing the only reasonable person in the entire film.

But what really sets this film apart is its appalling poor taste. Phillips is another in a group of new, young filmmakers who substitute shock value for comedy. Examples are beautiful young women with male genitalia, which are displayed for all to see.

The film isn’t completely worthless. There are good performances by Paul Giamatti as a man who appears to be a mob boss, and Mike Tyson, believe it or not. Fans of the ‘90s sitcom Larry Sanders will see a familiar face with an appearance by Jeffrey Tambor. Actually, all the performances are good, considering the script. They made the best of it.

Often films like this, which was filmed on location, make up for weaknesses by beautiful cinematography. Not this one. Instead of presenting the beauty of Southeast Asia, Director of Photography Lawrence Sher concentrates on showing how hot and crowded and dingy Bangkok is. Except for the wedding location, there are no shots that make one want to visit Bangkok or Southeast Asia.

Stu’s profanity-laden finale in front of a well-dressed wedding party, which wins over the theretofore reasonable Fohn, is a fitting finale for a disgraceful film.

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