It’s hard not to like Point Blank, the new Netflix movie starring MCU foes Anthony Mackie and Frank Grillo as a mismatched pair who take on a group of crooked cops led by Marcia Gay Harden. It’s the kind of guilty pleasure you watch on a Sunday afternoon with your brother or your roommate or whoever, and no one complains afterwards. Does it break any new ground? Well, no, but Mackie and Grillo share a certain chemistry that makes this an appealing action movie, especially at 80 minutes. And yes, that brief running time (sans credits) tells you all you really need to know. This is a modest time investment, and for action junkies and fans of buddy movies, its rewards are modest as well.
The film opens with a solid chase scene that ends with a painful surprise before we’re quickly introduced to Paul (Mackie), an ER nurse, and his pregnant wife, Taryn (Teyonah Parris). Within a span of 10 minutes, Paul is beaten up twice, and Taryn is kidnapped. If Paul wants her back, he’ll have to free an injured criminal named Abe (Grillo), who is under his care. This lovable tough guy is wanted for murder by the same corrupt cops he’s been trying to expose. In classic buddy movie fashion, the odd couple of Paul and Abe are forced to team up and fight for their lives, as well as those of their loved ones. What little plot there is besides that is doled out via quick flashbacks that hint at Abe’s backstory and why he’s in such trouble at the start of the film. I mean, if you’ve ever seen a movie before, you pretty much know what you’re getting here. So, how’s the action, you’re wondering?
While there are some cool fight scenes in Point Blank, including one set inside of a car wash, and an effective ‘escape the hospital’ sequence, the action wasn’t quite as inventive as what director Joe Lynch pulled off with Everly, his 2014 movie starring Salma Hayek that was largely set inside of a single apartment. Again, the script by Adam G. Simon allows for some fun shootouts and car chases, but nothing you’ll really remember a few weeks later. The other issue I had was that the tone of these action sequences varies from scene to scene. At times, it feels like Point Blank is struggling to choose whether to be a fun buddy film or a gritty action movie. Even its soundtrack is a bit schizophrenic like that, ranging from punk bands like Black Flag and The Dead Kennedys to rap legends like Grandmaster Flash and Eazy E, all the way to classic rock, courtesy of Whitesnake. That’s a fun group of artists, no doubt, but they don’t exactly seem to be of a piece, if you catch my drift.
Point Blank is Mackie’s fourth Netflix project this year following IO, the Black Mirror episode Striking Vipers, and the upcoming second season of Altered Carbon. He’s a solid attraction for the streaming service, and I understand why he’d want to topline his own action movie after playing a supporting role in the MCU. But, to be honest, he’s kind of coasting here. I think Mackie is a brilliant actor, and the truth is, he’s just better than this material, which probably wouldn’t have been greenlit at other studios because it isn’t quite ‘big’ enough. When you get right down to it, this is a seven-person cast (I almost forgot the film buff gangster played by Markice Moore). It’s shot to feel bigger than it really is, which is a testament to Lynch’s ability to accomplish a lot with a little. Point Blank is based on a 2010 French film of the same name, and as Mackie knows all too well with Miss Bala, sometimes these English-language remakes are easier said than done.
Grillo is great at playing a certain type, and fortunately, it’s the type of guy he plays in Point Blank. A take-no-shit kind of guy. He does exactly what is asked of him in this role, but the writing doesn’t exactly help make his character more memorable. Fans of Grillo’s other Netflix action movie Wheelman will love Point Blank, which represents a step up from that film. But I believe Grillo is a more soulful actor — see Warrior and The Grey as proof — and I do wish he was allowed to imbue some of these tough-guy characters with an softer side, though obviously, Abe’s bond with his brother Mateo (Christian Cooke) is what drives his character in this film. So while I’m pumped to see Grillo’s upcoming macho movies Boss Level and Black and Blue, I’m also looking forward to his coming-of-age drama Once Upon a Time in Staten Island, which was produced by Blumhouse in a departure from their horror brand.
Speaking of Grillo’s brother, he’s played by Christian Cooke, an actor who has been working steadily for the past 20 years, but who has never really broken through as far as U.S. audiences are concerned. The closest he’s come was a lead role in the Starz series Magic City, but not many people actually watched that show. He’s actually pretty good as Grillo’s kid brother, and I liked his somewhat manic work here. Hopefully, it leads to more opportunities for the young English actor.
Cooke spends the majority of his scenes working with up-and-coming actress Teyonah Parris from Mad Men and If Beale Street Could Talk, who plays Mackie’s pregnant wife. Again, there’s not a whole lot for her to do here besides act pregnant and give Mackie someone to fight for, but as such, she gets the job done.
As for the bad guys, Oscar winner Harden is clearly slumming it here, but she seems to be enjoying every minute of it, hamming it up as the most crooked of all the cops. She’s working in ‘big’ mode here, like The Mist and the Fifty Shades franchise, and I suppose it suits her at this stage of her career. She’s aided by Boris McGiver, who happens to be one of my favorite character actors, having played Tom Hammerschmidt on Netflix’s own House of Cards.
I’m a huge personal fan of both Mackie and Grillo, both of whom I’d watch in just about anything, but I won’t lie and say this movie is awesome, because it’s not. It’s a little generic, and at 80 minutes, thin on both story and character development. But, as I wrote above, it gets the job done if you’re an action junkie looking for a quick fix. Point Blank offers likable leads, an Oscar-winning villain, and no shortage of bad words, which may just be enough to liven up a sleepy streaming session.