I love contemporary thrillers about ordinary people in extraordinary situations. The best examples used to come out of America, but that has changed in the last 10 years.
Now all the best thrillers seem to come out of Europe, and especially France. I was absolutely blown away when I saw Guillame Canet's 2006 film Tell No One, and no subsequent American thriller has come close to living up to it.
The stellar 2008 film Anything For Her (which was remade as the 2010 Russell Crowe flop The Next Three Days) was another French thriller that rocked my world, so I was very interested to the director's follow-up film, Point Blank, which was released on DVD in New Zealand last week.
Point Blank tells the story of male nurse Samuel (Gilles Lellouche) who steps up to save the life of an unidentified patient late one evening at the hospital where he works. Big mistake.
It turns out the patient is caught up in a recent high profile murder. Samuel arrives home where he is knocked out by persons unknown. When he wakes up, his heavily pregnant wife (The Skin I Live In's Elena Anaya) has been kidnapped and a voice on the phone orders Samuel to co-operate if he ever wants to see her again.
As a portrait of an average guy forced by circumstances to do extraordinary things, Point Blank doesn't put a foot wrong. Lellouche makes for a perfectly-put upon protagonist, and his plight kept me gripped to the screen without ever sacrificing any suspension of disbelief.
Director Fred Cavayé injects a huge amount of slick style into the look of the film, rendering it an aesthetic delight in addition to being a wholly captivating story.
However, what struck me most about Point Blank is how it sounds like a million other films on paper, yet feels so unique in the viewing. There's no element in this film we haven't seen many times before, but they're assembled in such a way that the whole enterprise feels fresh and exciting.
I want to attribute this freshness to something more than the simple fact that the movie was made and set in France, but it's a struggle trying to identify what that could be. The genius of this film and others like it shouldn't be attributed to mere geography.
Maybe it's that the contemporary American thriller has been ground into blandness by the studio system. Maybe it's because reading subtitles prevents the familiar elements from seeming to familiar.
Or maybe the American setting is simply too familiar to audiences these days. Many of the most popular recent American thrillers - the Bourne movies, Taken - spent most of their running times in Europe.
My preferred explanation is that a generation of Europeans who grew up on the American thrillers of the '70s' 80s and '90s are now making their own films, and not having grown up in America means they are better placed to harness the conventions of the genre without seeming repetitive.
Whatever the reason, I get much more excited by the prospect of a European thriller these days than an American one.
Point Blank is a perfect example of why, and I strongly urge you to check it out.
Check out the trailer for Point Blank:
* Do you think Europe is leading the world on contemporary thrillers? What recent examples have you enjoyed? Comment below!