Point Blank (1967)
Written by: Alexander Jacobs, David Newhouse and Rafe Newhouse
Directed by: John Boorman
Suggested by: tallandstupid
About halfway through “Point Blank,” I realized two things. 1) I was kind of digging it. 2) Something about this movie seemed very…familiar. It wasn’t until the introduction of a character named Carter that I realized something - “Point Blank” was remade in 1999 as “Payback,” a Brian Helgeland movie starring Mel Gibson that I love and have always thought was underrated. “Point Blank” wasn’t recommended to me because of that. It’s just a happy coincidence. Two entries in my cinematic databanks have now been connected.
Lee Marvin stars as Walker, who’s double-crossed, shot and left for dead by his wife and his best friend during a heist on Alcatraz. John Vernon (perhaps best known as Dean Wormer in “Animal House”) makes his film debut plays the turncoat friend, a cowardly small-time crook named Mal Reese. Walker recovers from his physical wounds and soon sets out to heal the psychological ones by tracking down and killing Reese - and recovering the $93,000 he lost in the botched caper. He teams up along the way with his sister-in-law Chris (Angie Dickinson) and a mysterious man named Yost (Keenan Wynn).
In the meantime, Reese has used his blood money to buy his way into the Organization, a mob-type outfit that’s run by a mystery man named Fairfax. Walker works his way through the Organization from a two-bit car salesman named Stegman (Michael Strong) to middle management, run by Carter (Lloyd Bochner), all the way to the outfit’s second-in-command Brewster, played by a pre-Archie-Bunker Carroll O’Connor.
All of these men don’t understand why Walker would go to all this trouble for what is, to them, an insignificant $93,000 payday. But one look at Walker’s face removes all doubt - this isn’t business, it’s personal. And there are few who can play a stone-faced badass as well as Lee Marvin. Walker’s made of granite, the kind of man who will let a woman pound away at him until she’s exhausted, then walk to the couch and flip on the TV. The kind of man who has no problem going for your balls if it will win the fight. The kind of man who will wreck a brand new car just to prove a point.
There are two spectacular sequences in the film that underscore this point. The first begins with Walker walking down a long hallway, his footsteps echoing throughout. Gradually the footsteps get louder and we cut away to Lynne (Sharon Acker), Walker’s wife and the first name on his to-do list. We see Walker watching her, preparing to put his plan in motion - all the while, the steps getting louder and louder - until Walker springs into action. It’s beautiful.
The other great sequence is a fight that takes place in the backstage area of a psychedelic nightclub. Walker is confronted by three of Stegman’s henchman and proceeds to take them apart, piece by piece. This really drives home Walker’s brutality as well as Lee Marvin’s toughness - the 40+ year-old actor didn’t (to my eyes, anyway) use a stunt double during this scene. Plus, it all ends with this shot:
But for all the things I loved about “Point Blank,” it left me a little cold. The movie takes a while to find its tempo before settling in nicely in the middle. And the ending feels empty and unsatisfying, perhaps by design, but still - something just didn’t click with me.
But I am absolutely recommending this movie, if only for John Boorman’s incredibly detailed direction, especially with the look of the film. And Lee Marvin’s performance is really well done, far more nuanced than most actors would deem necessary. There’s one scene where he just sits in the background for over a minute, literally saying nothing - because he doesn’t have to.
I’m wavering between 3 1/2 and 4 Hudsons on this one. I’ve been going back and forth all day, but I’m going to settle on 3 1/2. A really strong 3 1/2.
Do you have a movie you’d like to see reviewed? Something that excites you? A hidden little gem that you’re ready for the world (or at least the 70+ readers of this blog) to see? Send me a message on Tumblr or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to your suggestions. Thanks for reading!