Monday 20 November 2017

REVIEWS: 'A Bout Portant' by Paul Whittington

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

Paul Whitington

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.

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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