Quite shockingly, Point Blank has been released by Sony on UK Region B Blu-ray with a 1080i High Definition video presentation – made more insulting when you find out that the movie was released on a English-friendly French Blu-ray by Gaumont back in April with, by all accounts, a reference quality 1080p video presentation. This Sony variation is not a bad quality presentation, but it is also far from impressive, and difficult to understand when juxtaposed with an earlier, better release. Detail is good throughout, better on close-ups and daytime long shots, although the video finds it harder to cope with the darker sequences that have low-level lighting – unfortunately there are plenty of these! The colour scheme is well-represented throughout; again, there is a darker, more gritty tone to the whole production, but the colours still ring true. Black levels suffer from variable grain levels and a little crush, and overall you are likely to find smatterings of most of the irritating digital defects that you would least likely to see on a new release, but, again, this is not a bad video presentation, just a very disappointing one – particularly because it could have so easily been avoided by a) using the same 1080p presentation that Gaumont used or b) making a new 1080p presentation instead of a 1080i one. There really are no excuses, so, marking-wise, the score reflects that as much as anything else.
On the aural front there is far less to criticise – I don’t know whether we have the same DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that the earlier Gaumont release received, but it appears to be just as good either way. Coming in two flavours – the original native French language and the ill-advised English-dub, I choose to discuss only the former. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, largely emanating from the front and centre channels, although often taking second place to the engaging, dramatic score. Effects are well-observed, with quite a few louder set-pieces and chases, again often dominated by the suitably thrilling score, but with plenty of screeching tyres, crashes, sirens and gunshots (silenced or otherwise) peppering the array with noteworthy moments. There’s a little bass thrown into the mix, and overall this is great track which borders on reference quality at several points throughout the runtime.
In terms of extras, we get a fairly long Making-of Documentary, which looks to be the same 50 minute offering that can be found on the earlier French release – only here it comes with English subtitles! Detailing the intention behind the piece – how they attempted to create a restricted-budget Euro alternative to a Hollywood thriller – the director, crew and main cast members are all on hand to offer up considerable background into the production, and the Documentary also showcases plenty of behind the scenes clips to further illustrate just how they put it all together.
Unfortunately, we lose the Commentary from the French disc (although, again, that didn’t have English subtitles anyway), and the only other extras we get are a Photo Gallery and the Trailer.
Point Blank is the latest in a long line of generally very good new French thrillers which stylistically borrow heavily from American (Hollywood) productions in much the same way as both Kurosawa films and Leone westerns did over half a Century ago – and to great effect, as now we have all the action, thrills and drama, as well as more well-rounded characters and a more substantial plot. Somewhat ironically, the majority of these productions either have already been remade, or will likely have the treatment done over the next couple of years – Hollywood appearing to be so beyond originality now that it wants to copy films which were inspired by, and designed to be alternatives to their Hollywood counterparts in the first place! At least until that happens, Point Blank remains one of the original French thrillers that is well worth checking out; it is a lean, mean, extremely streamlined and well-paced film that may not have quite enough character development and substance to it, but still beats out many of its Hollywood counterparts.
On Region B-locked UK Blu-ray we get disappointing 1080i video – not least because the French equivalent Blu-ray release, which came out some 6 months ago and had English-friendly subtitles actually came with superior 1080p video – but thankfully great audio, as well as one solid documentary in the otherwise thin extras section. If you’re a fan of the film I can’t see why you wouldn’t want to pick up the French release instead for the superior video presentation; although then you may be disappointed that you can’t understand the documentary (which, on the French release, has no English subtitles), so it’s a tough position to be in. This is certainly a far from perfect release, and fans will have to think long and hard about what they want from a film package. Newcomers should consider this well worth a rental, and, if you like it, you should definitely check out the other titles in the nouveau French thriller sub-set, as they make for a refreshing, engaging streamlined alternative to many modern, bloated Hollywood counterparts.
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