A remake can be a dangerous thing. A remake of a film that is critically acclaimed and heavily appreciated must be done well. In the case of Netflix original “Point Blank,” the film proved to be a dangerous thing, and it wasn’t done well.
The film is a remake of a 2010 French thriller by Fred Cavayé and stars Frank Grillo and Anthony Mackie, both of whom are in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Mackie is Paul, a nurse with a pregnant wife, who dreams of being a doctor one day. Grillo is Abe, a mercenary assassin on the run from the cops for a murder he didn’t commit.
When a job goes sideways for Abe and he winds up in a hospital, his brother, Mateo (Christian Cooke) nabs Paul’s wife, Taryn (Teyonah Parris), in order to force Paul to get Abe out of the hospital. Understandably, Paul is willing to do whatever it takes to save his wife and unborn child.
While this film is based on a taut thriller, the Netflix adaptation struggles on a lot of levels. Netflix has had several original films and shows that have been absolutely brilliant. This one, though, well, it just falls flat. It’s not taut, it’s not thrilling, and the story/acting are completely ho-hum. It’s not even just because the film doesn’t live up to its predecessor. (Confession: I saw the original film in theaters because my boyfriend — we weren’t dating at the time, but I sure did want to impress him — loves art house and foreign films. I remember I liked the French thriller, but beyond that I don’t remember anything else.)
So, no, “Point Blank” doesn’t just fail because it’s a pale comparison of its predecessor. It fails because it’s bland.
While Mackie is charming, he lacks the charisma and chutzpah a leading man needs to command the screen. Take Paul, for instance. His pregnant wife has been kidnapped, and he should be freaking out. Instead, he’s pretty chill about the whole thing. He has moments of worry, or even panic, but for the most part the fate of his wife and unborn child feels more like a troubling concern than the most urgent matter of his life. The film spends more time emphasizing his being a nurse than his fear of losing his wife. After he’s jumped by Mateo, a cop even notes his surprise that Paul is the nurse who was “jumped because he thought (Paul) was a chick.”
The film has little moments like that where it lays the stereotypes on pretty heavily. Paul asks female detective Lewis (Marcia Gay Harden) if she has any advice on his impending parenthood. She never had children, though, or wanted them, which she tells him. It’s a brief but odd exchange. Perhaps, it’s meant to try and add something to Harden’s character, which is as dull as Mackie’s.
Lewis is meant to be seen as this tough-as-nails cop, but she’s just flat and boring. Harden is a great actress, but she’s wooden as Lewis. We first meet her when the assistant district attorney has been murdered, and she’s supposed to be devastated and filled with a thirst for vengeance. As the film goes on, we’re supposed to see the character go through an evolution, but, over and over, it just feels like Harden is doing nothing more than reading lines in a script. It’s disheartening to see her mail it in like this.
I suppose this is the moment when I should mention Grillo. However, there’s not a lot to add besides the criticisms I’ve made for Mackie and Harden. He’s a flat character who is defined by one trait. Like those two, he’s also not able to really sell that one trait, either.
“Point Blank” had a blueprint for success, and I’m not entirely sure why they didn’t follow it. Unlike many remakes of foreign products, this one doesn’t attempt to outdo the predecessor in any area, such as action or suspense. It doesn’t add much to the narrative, except a slight shift away from Mackie’s character to Grillo’s. In doing so, it robs this one of its heart and humanity, probably resulting in this one feeling flat. That’s the biggest heist it pulled.