À bout portant
There are some forms that are pretty straightforward, and for their fans it’s well enough to just work them out adequately. For some people it’s westerns; for others it’s ’80s romantic comedies; and for some it’s a crime action thriller. If you’re into those, À bout portant will be right up your alley.
Samuel Pierret (Gilles Lellouche) is a nurse’s aide in a hospital in Paris. An unidentified man (Roschdy Zem) is brought in after being hit by a motorcycle. But someone knows who he is; late at night a man in a doctor’s coat slinks into the ward and slices through his respirator tube. Luckily, Samuel is there and knows what to do to save the mystery man’s life until a doctor comes to take over.
The next morning, someone sneaks into Samuel’s apartment and whacks him over the head. When he wakes up, his very pregnant wife Nadia (Elena Anaya) is missing. Samuel’s phone rings, with instructions to get the mystery man out of the hospital by noon, or Nadia will be killed.
And so begins a romp around Paris, chased by a rogue squad of police led by Commandant Werner (Gérard Lanvin). Of course, it seems that everyone is against Samuel, though there’s some support from Commandant Fabre (Mireille Perrier), who leads another police squad, and Capitaine Susini (Claire Perot), one of Fabre’s squad members. That said, even the honest cops can’t turn a blind eye to an apparently armed and dangerous felon.
Overall, yeah, it’s pretty okay, but that’s about it. There are no real twists; not even something as hackneyed as the amnesia as in Unknown. It’s just a stripped-down, no-frills action thriller, as was writer/director Fred Cavayé’s previous project, Pour Elle, which was adapted into The Next Three Days.
And that’s fine if you like crime action thrillers, but sort of disappointing if you want more than the bare bones of the genre. Lellouche does a perfectly good job as the ordinary husband who will go to extraordinary lengths to save his wife — do we detect a running theme in Cavayé’s work? But there’s really nothing much to Samuel’s character. Zem does manage to achieve some amount of character development, but it would be easy to miss it. This is definitely not the work of, say, Luc Besson, who has made an art out of character-driven crime action thrillers like Léon and Nikita.
But it’s not as if it’s bad. There’s an extended chase sequence through the Gare de l’Est Métro station that’s really well-done. The action is generally gritty and tightly shot, giving a nicely visceral feel. And it has a real economy; at 84 minutes it’s no longer than it needs to be to get its story told, and that keeps a solid workhorse of a genre picture from overstaying its welcome.
Worth It: yeah, if you’re into action thrillers.
Bechdel Test: fail.