Sunday 4 December 2016

REVIEWS: 'A Bout Portant' by Paul Whittington

Paul Whitington

Published 10/06/2011 | 05:00

Tense: Gilles Lellouche in A Bout Portant
Tense: Gilles Lellouche in A Bout Portant

Fred Cavayé is a clever and talented filmmaker whose thrillers owe as much to the American crime tradition as they do to classic French policiers.

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His 2008 feature debut Pour Elle impressed everyone with the intensity of its narrative drive, and a recent Hollywood remake starring Russell Crowe failed to replicate the original's frantic energy.

Franticness is the prevailing mood in A bout portant (Point Blank), which starts explosively and never lets up. Gilles Lellouche is Samuel Pierret, a Parisian intensive-care nurse whose Spanish wife Nadia (Elena Anaya) is expecting their first child.

As Samuel comes on duty one night he notices a man lurking near the bed of a patient called Hugo Sartet (Roschdy Zem), who was hit and seriously injured by a motorcycle. Hugo's oxygen has been tampered with, and Samuel saves his life. When the police arrive it emerges that Hugo is a suspect in a murder, and when Samuel gets home that night he's attacked and wakes to find his wife gone. She's been kidnapped by a gang who insist they will kill her if Samuel doesn't help Hugo escape from hospital. He sets out to do that, but it's the beginning of a horrific 24 hours that will expose him to a bewildering underworld of corruption and deceit.

A bout portant's relentless momentum is impressive, and some of the action sequences are magnificently staged. The film's edgy visual style owes a great deal to Paul Greengrass's Bourne films, but Cavayé adds distinctive touches of his own, and does a great job of sustaining the tension until the end. The problem is that the action never lets up: at no point does the film pause for breath or to flesh out any of its characters, and as a result this is a thriller that plays out on one shrill note.

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