Film Review: Gang Story

Olivier Marchal’s film features all the familiar gangster tropes. Nevertheless, Gang Story is well produced, and is engaging throughout.

Coming from a poor Gypsy background, Momon Vidal became a big player in organised crime. Enjoying spending time with his family later in life, Vidal’s peaceful existence is interupted by the return of his oldest friend, Serge Suttel. Looking back on their past exploits, Vidal must decide how best to help his old friend…

Based on the memoirs of Edmond Vidal, Gang Story plays out well. There are few real surprises as the film unfolds, but some well-crafted storytelling retains the viewer’s attention. Gang Story features a flashback format, which informs the contemporary narrative.

Themes of loyalty and criminality reign, as would be expected from a gangster film. An interesting facet of Gang Story is the way it simultaneously glamorises gang culture and makes it look unaapealing. The profits of this type of lifestyle are all too apparent through the lavish houses and expensive cars. Nevertheless, the danger is also perpetual, with the fatalities contrasting well with any riches gained.

Cinematography in Gang Story is good, particularly in the flashback sequences. The cinematography combines well with the art direction and costuming, giving these scenes an authentically 1970s appearance. The film is violent throughout its duration. Marchal does not hold back from depicting some very brutal crimes.

Gérard Lanvin offers a decent peroformance as Momon Vidal. The strength lies in his stoicism, rather than delivery of dialogue. Tchéky Karyo is also good as Serge Suttel. The contrast between these two characters appears steadily but naturally as the film progresses. Elsewhere, Valeria Cavalli is well cast as Janou Vidal, and Patrick Catalifo makes a good police detective.

Gang Story is like many others, even though it is inspired by real events. Marchal’s fine direction makes the film a lot more capitavating than it could have been.

Film Review: Point Blank

Point Blank is a lively French thriller that should entertain most cinemagoers. The film’s frenetic pace makes up for its lack of depth.

Samuel Pierret is a nurse living with his heavily pregnant wife. When Samuel saves the life of thief Sartet, his wife his taken hostage. In order to ensure her safe return, Samuel must spring Sartet from the hospital. Things don’t go according to plan, and both Samuel and Sartet face a race against time and their enemies…

Point Blank offers a fairly standard narrative for the action thriller genre. Some of the film’s twists and turns are incredulous, which seems like a prerequisite of the modern thriller. Nevertheless, these shortcomings can be forgiven as does a good job of entertaining throughout.

There is a distinct lack of character development in Point Blank; the action commences very quickly and there is little downtime from this. However, the lack of depth actually works in the film’s favour on this occasion. Functioning as an everyman, it is not difficult to identify with Samuel Pierret. The protagonist’s motivations and actions are completely understandable given the context. The fact that he is just an average man heightens the perilousness of the situation.

Similarly, very little is revealed about Sartot. The ambiguity of this character serves to retain a sense of mystery for most of the film. There is a real sense of threat, which is exacerbated by Pierret’s heavily-pregnant wife Nadia. With all the twists, it is difficult for both Pierret and the audience to judge who to trust. Sartot is at the centre of this nebulousness; his role in proceedings remains unclear until the finale.

Director Fred Cavayé exhibits a fluid style that is pivotal to the film’s momentum. The camera work is kinetic, and at times dizzying with its frequent hand-held shots. This works well, however, when combined with the booming soundtrack. The sense of urgency is really portrayed both visually and aurally. The only real letdown is the security footage, which looks hopelessly staged.

Gilles Lellouche expresses appropriate tension and intensity as protagonist Pierret. Roschdy Zem makes a sombre ally as the ambiguous Sartot. His mannerisms effectively convey the coldness he shows at certain points in Point Blank. Gérard Lanvin tries to bring some presence to the rather one-dimensional police detective Werner, and Elena Anaya has little to do besides look frightened.

Point Blank is not the most original of thrillers. But the film is short and sweet, which makes it a more pleasurable watch than a number of other recent additions to the genre.