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Is a remake still a remake when you've never heard of the original? Most people opening up Netflix probably haven't seen the 2010 French crime thriller Point Blank, but the app will probably recommend the new American version starring Anthony Mackie and Frank Grillo if only because it's a Netflix original film. Anybody who takes the algorithm up on its offer probably won't feel they've wasted the last 90 minutes of their life when its over, but if you skip over it, you also haven't missed much.

Paul (Anthony Mackie) is an emergency room nurse getting ready for the birth of his first child in a matter of weeks. However, Paul unfortunately gets assigned a room with a John Doe which is going to make his life a bit more difficult. Abe (Frank Grillo) was hit by a car while escaping from the home of the District Attorney, who was found dead. The cops have Abe under guard, but when Abe's brother kidnaps Paul's pregnant wife, he forces the nurse to get his brother out of the hospital, setting off a manhunt.

It's a simple enough premise and we've seen variations of this theme before. The fact that things aren't entirely as they seem at the outset isn't simply obvious if you've seen a film in this genre before. I doubt anybody but the youngest viewers (who shouldn't be watching such a violent and vulgar movie in the first place) won't see the twists coming.

Point Blank is death by a thousand cuts. There's no single great flaw in the story or the characters, just a bunch of little things that add up to frustration. Yes, the plot is predictable, but that only matters because you find yourself thinking about where the movie is going rather than where it is. I try not to be too critical of characters in films who make decisions that don't seem to make sense. Normal people make idiotic decisions every day. But when a character choice makes so little sense that it knocks you completely out of the story, that's a problem, and that happens several times in Point Blank.

And that's too bad, because the movie Pont Blank seems to want to be (for most of its runtime anyway) is a suspenseful thriller, and that requires audience investment to work. You have to worry about what is going to happen to the characters that you like. Every time the story makes a questionable turn for no clear reason beyond the fact that the script requires it, you lose what investment you have in the heroes.

This becomes a bigger problem when you get to the third act and the movie makes a distinct shift in tone. What has tried to be a gritty and dramatic thriller veers into action-comedy territory for no discernible reason. A brand new character (played by Markice Moore, because apparently Kevin Hart was too expensive) is introduced who is the first dose of comic relief the movie has seen from the outset. He feels entirely out of place for what the movie has been to that point, but he essentially sets the tone for the rest of the story.

It's an odd decision to add comedy at a point where the tension should be at its highest. Maybe if that had been the entire movie it would have worked, but as it is, it just feels like last minute studio notes or test audience screenings led to an entirely reworked finale.

While there's a lot that doesn't work in Point Blank, the saving grace is that the two leads work pretty well. Anthony Mackie has proven before that he's more than just the MCU's Falcon (and presumptive new Captain America), but as the audience POV character, he does whatever he can with everything available to him. He's just as capable as being the guy in over his head as the superhero capable of anything. Frank Grillo has made a career out of being gruff and gritty. He's at home here, and it shows.

What works between them isn't exactly their chemistry, but rather their lack of it. Paul and Abe are two guys from very different worlds who have been forced together by circumstance. They work best with they are trying to work together while hating each other's guts. Point Blank has all the trappings of a "buddy movie," but it's actually whatever the opposite of a buddy movie is. A "nemesis movie"? Whatever you call it, it's the one fresh angle the movie has.

Point Blank isn't the Falcon and Crossbones team-up you've been waiting for, but it's a useful enough diversion. It's the sort of movie that only exists because you're already paying for Netflix, but since you are, why not, right?

5 / 10 stars
Rating: movie reviewed star rating out of five
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