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Review: Point Blank (2019)

Point Blank (2019) is a Netflix original action/thriller from director Joe Lynch (Everly, Mayhem). Apparently, this is a remake of a 2010 french movie of the same name but I didn’t know that going in and, let’s be honest, I’m never going to watch the original so I don’t care. What I care about is that it stars underrated badass Frank Grillo (Reprisal, Wheelman, The Grey, Crossbones in the MCU) and Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker, Falcon in the MCU) in a buddy cop movie. Everything about the trailer made it look like an action-packed, throwback style of movie that would be right up my alley. Unfortunately, the movie couldn’t match the tone and energy of that trailer.

It starts off exciting enough as we first see Abe (Grillo) jump out of a house window and get chased on foot. His brother, Mateo, is driving to pick him up but, before he can get there, Abe is hit by a car. Police and EMS arrive so his Mateo has to leave the scene. That’s where Paul (Mackie) comes in. Abe was taken to the hospital, so Mateo kidnaps Paul’s pregnant wife and holds her for ransom until Paul (a nurse at the hospital) can break Abe out from under the police security. Obviously, he is successful but we all know it isn’t going to be that easy. Now Abe and Mackie have to find a hard drive (the item he got from the house) with information on it that will exonerate him and his brother. Things get twisty from that point as more and more information is revealed. A murdered district attorney, a gang boss, and dirty cops all come into the equation with Paul and Abe stuck in the middle of it all.

Frank Grillo as Abe

Lucky for me, the best part of the movie is the reason I wanted to see it in the first place, Frank Grillo. He has made a career of playing tough guys that aren’t very good guys. He either plays a straight up villain (Donnybrook, Into the Ashes) or he plays a character like this. Abe isn’t necessarily a bad dude, he just is very brash, rude, and hard to get along with. To put it frankly, he is an asshole and Grillo plays him to perfection. If you’ve seen him in any of his roles, you’ll know he can play the tough guy role in his sleep. The hard part is to somehow make this complete asshole likeable and relatable. Thankfully, Grillo is charismatic and talented enough to pull it off.

On the flip side, Mackie’s character, Paul, is an all around good guy. His career involves helping people, his coworkers love him, and we are shown that he is a great husband. Mackie is fine in the role, but I felt like his character is just way too straight-laced to be interesting. I don't know what it is, but Mackie has never really been an interesting actor to me, and this movie doesn't help my perception of him. It’s a bland role and Mackie isn’t able to bring much to the role to elevate it beyond how it was written.

Anthony Mackie as Paul

The chemistry between the two is pretty good and the dynamic between them is interesting. In most of these movies, these wildly different personalities clash but by the end they become friends. That’s not really the case here. Their personalities do clash (obviously), but they don’t really become friends. They work together, each hoping to achieve their personal goal, then they part ways in the end. The closest they come to bonding is a sort of mutual respect. I really enjoyed that minor tweak to the formula. Grillo’s character is a dick in the beginning and he is a dick in the end. He is focused on doing what he has to do to get what he wants and that never changes. There’s no magical moment where he changes his ways and becomes a nice guy. That departure from the norm felt refreshing to me. Obviously, this dynamic, the straight-laced guy paired up with the gruff tough guy type, is not new, but I felt like it was done well enough to avoid feeling completely stale.

The problem is, the story does feel completely stale and the characters aren’t enough to overcome the narrative failures. Everything about the story comes across as very by the numbers. Nothing feels exciting. The “twists” and “reveals” can be seen coming a mile out, and the scenes feel scattered and hastily thrown together. It doesn’t help matters that all of the characters are one note characters that we’ve seen a million times before, and only Grillo is able to make his character remotely interesting. Even the great Marcia Gay Harden (Academy Award winning actress for Pollock and Academy Award nominee for Mystic River) can’t help. There is absolutely no depth to her cliche character, and she feels as bored by her role as I was.

To make matters worse, the action scenes aren’t great either. There’s a foot chase set to some loud rock music, then a car chase set to some loud music, then a shoot-out set to some loud rock music. . . you get the point. While all of these scenes are filmed clearly and are easy enough to follow, they also have an assembly line feel which makes them come across as tired and uninspired. There was one action scene that was especially disappointing to me. Abe gets into a fight with a guy in the middle of one of those automated car washes. They’re grappling and throwing punches on and around a car while getting soaked and getting pummeled by the brushes. It’s a unique and fantastic idea, but even that scene doesn’t have the sense of excitement it should.

Overall, this is a completely generic movie that is hard to get invested in due to it’s bland narrative, boring one-note characters, and underwhelming action. Grillo brings his A game, but everything else is utterly dated and forgettable. Unfortunately, in my opinion, this is another miss for Netflix. If you’re a fan of Frank Grillo like I am, and you’d like to see a good, fun performance from him, Point Blank might be worth your time. Otherwise, I suggest you pass on it.

RATING: 5 out of 10 (D+)

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