Point Blank movie review: Anthony Mackie delivers a heartfelt performance in this potentially juicy thriller
In Point Blank, Anthony Mackie lends his character a beating heart and proves yet again what it is like to live a black man's life in a white man's world.
castAntony Mackie, Frank Grillo, Christian Cooke, Teyonah Parris, Marcia Gay Harden
Point Blank has been the name of multiple crime dramas in the past but what makes this Anthony Mackie-starrer different is that it is constructed from the black characters' point of view. There are enough white characters in the film, from the cops to the kidnappers on loose. But a black family, having nothing to do with the chain of crimes, gets stuck in the crossfire.
Director Joe Lynch incorporates all the necessary tropes of an archetypal thriller. He brings heart to the story primarily through the Stockholm's Syndrome trope.
Mackie plays the lead role of Paul, a nurse at a city hospital who gets dragged into a multi-million dollar deal between a group of criminals, including Frank Grillo's Abe and Christian Cooke's Matteo. His pregnant wife Taryn (Teyonah Parris) gets abducted by Matteo in a bid to blackmail Paul into rescuing Abe from the hospital he works at. Meanwhile police officials, particularly a spirited Lieutenant Lewis (Marcia Gay Harden), are waiting for Abe to return to consciousness so that they can arrest and interrogate the gangs. Paul reluctantly plays along, and thus starts a chase sequence that extends throughout the film.
Lynch flirts with abduction tropes of Matteo developing a soft corner for Taryn and her unborn baby, and Paul and Abe working together to ensure each other's safety. Revealing anything more would amount to spoilers, but let us just say Fred Cavaye and Adam G Simon's character sketches and screenplay writing, respectively, are not as thin as the wafer-sized plot of this film. The fact that you remotely relate with all the major characters, including the bad ones (who are the bad ones anyway?) speaks volumes of Lynch's ability to balance thrill with the heart.
Casting director Sharon Bialy does a great job within the framework of predominantly white characters. Mackie's casting as a nurse suggests he, by virtue of being a young black man, did not get job elsewhere. Whereas those who protect (and also side-step) the law are white. Interestingly, the police have a loose moral compass, but the thieves still have their empathy intact. There are no black and white traits in the characters morally, but Lynch's treatment of the film makes it a compelling socio-racial commentary.
Mackie lends his character a beating heart and proves, yet again, what it is to live a black man's life in a white man's world, following his significant turns in Avengers: Endgame (he is the next Captain America!) and the episode 'Striking Vipers' in Black Mirror season 5.
Teyonah provides adequate support to Mackie through her heartfelt act and comforting chemistry with the main lead. Grillo boasts of arguably the best performance among the cast with his testosterone-loaded performance and one scene-stealing moment when his guard is finally off. Cooke, as Matteo, plays the supportive brother with the kind of sensitivity a pampered man harbours, despite being the abductor. Marcia pulls off another highly commendable role with an author-backed character and the elusive curtness of a female police officer.
Juan Miguel Azpiroz's cinematography, Freddy Waff's production design, and Jayna Mansbridge's costume design — decent as they are — fail to be a time capsule of contemporary American black culture like Mitch Lee's background score. His selection of acquired tracks pumps life into the otherwise tepid screenplay. His music not only shows what a situational creative genius he is, but also projects the depth of his immersion into black culture. His background score is everything we had expected of Black Panther — pacey visuals juxtaposed against cool fast-paced music. Special mention to the first fight at a car wash center which ends up with Abe and Paul stealing a swanky ride from an old lady who warns them: "I have pepper spray in my bag".
Point Blank could have been a far better thriller though Lynch does try to hold it together. But he still deserves credit for not letting his background of a privileged white male completely take over the sensibilities of the film.
Point Blank is currently streaming on Netflix.
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