Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Point Break (À Bout Portant) -- desperate man, desperate measures

Director: Fred Cavayé, 2010 (R)

A man is running from a pair of gangsters, clutching his side where blood oozes out. As he descends several flights of stairs, he calls a partner to meet him. Running wounded, he manages to evade his pursuers, until he is involved in a motor accident. As implausible as it seems for a man as wounded as he is, this opening chase summarizes the ensuing film: it will be one long action-packed chase with a plot full of holes. But the action is enough and the film short enough (at 84 minutes) to keep us engaged and not thinking about the plot problems in this French thriller.

This man, Sartet (Roschdy Zem) is a killer and ends up in a coma in the hospital under nurse-in-training Samuel’s (Gilles Lellouche, Tell No One) care. Samuel is studying for his nursing exams while his beautiful and very pregnant wife Nadia (Elena Anaya, Talk to Her) is confined to bed rest at home. When Samuel interrupts an attempt to kill Sartet in his hospital bed, Samuel finds himself hailed as a hero, a status that lasts only until his wife is kidnapped.

With Nadia in the hands of unknown men, Samuel has to somehow get Sartet out of the hospital. In doing so, he finds himself chased by the police as a killer and by the unknown criminals. With nowhere to turn, Samuel is a desperate man willing to take desperate measures, including breaking the law, to find and save his wife.

Despite the far-fetched aspects of the film, Point Break is a full-on adrenaline rush from the very start. With long foot chases throughout, the film is one mad dash to the climax. There are some twists along the way, with suspense enough to balance the action. Its success is apparent in the fact that Hollywood has decided to do an English remake.

Not all is what it seems here. The film reminds me of Tell No One, which also had an everyman hero and which Lellouche acted in. Where Tell No One had a man whose wife was dead and who was contacted to pursue a mystery, Point Break has a man whose wife is alive but facing death. He, too, is told to tell no one and his decision to disobey and tell the police causes the police, under Commander Werner (Gérard Lanvin), to seek his arrest as a cop-killer. Both films show a man desperate and without friends, sought by unknown criminals. Both are good thrillers.

The heart of the film is the question, how far will a desperate man go to protect and save his wife. Will such desperation justify criminal activity, violent action, even murder?

When no one is available to turn to, a desperate man will take desperate action. And it is hard to say what we would do in similar circumstances. But King David did offer another solution in one of his psalms: “Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me” (Psa. 142:6). He cried out to God when he, too, was in a desperate situation. This was during the time when David was on the run from Saul (1 Sam. 22) and God did protect and provide for him, ultimately giving him the crown as King of Israel.  David was no stranger to violence and even broke a number of laws (like Samuel in the film), but his reliance in desperate times was on God.

We can remember David’s prayer when we are frantic with worry and in the midst of desperation. 

 Copyright ©2013, Martin Baggs

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