This is a nice little 1967 action picture starring Lee Marvin and directed by John Boorman, the sick fuck who made the movie deliverance I think you know what I’m talking about, oink oink.
Lee Marvin plays Walker. Not Walker the Texas Ranger, this walker is a Badass criminal type who is betrayed by his partner and his wife and left for dead. But he resurfaces, sees his wife die of a drug overdose and then works his way through his ex-partner and a crim corporation called The Organization, trying to get back the $93,000 that was stolen from him. As you can tell the plot is very similar to 1999 Outlaw Award winner Payback. There is even one scene in Payback that seems to be a direct lift from Point Blank, and believe it or not alot of the characters even have the same last names! An even stranger coincidence is that both films are based on the same book, “The Hunter” by Richard Stark. I mean what are the chances of something like that happening it boggles the mind, in my opinion.
I would like to thank my bud for recommending this picture saying that I would like it because it is kind of the same story as Payback but with filmatic language along the lines of fellow 1999 Outlaw Award winner The Limey. And it’s true, the editing especially, it jumps around and flashes back in the same way that The Limey does and I think it was probaly an influence. The setting and just the whole tone remind me of The Limey too but The Limey is not based on “the Hunter” unless it was uncredited. Not sure how that works that it is the same as Payback and The Limey but Limey is not the same as Payback.
Anyway Lee Marvin is a great Badass of our time, but he plays him as more of a softy than Mel Gibson’s Parker. Don’t get me wrong, the man is tough as nails in your feet, but he has more traces of human emotion than Parker, who is more sadistic and dead set on getting his money back. But Walker has brains and he is a master manipulator of motherfuckers. He sets up a complex operation to get to his partner’s well guarded penthouse which involves two actors tied up across the street, the police, and a sister-in-law seductress. He’s also fairly skilled at getting his enemies shot by their own snipers. I think that is a very good way to stick it to these rich corporate criminals. Anybody who is rich enough to own their own snipers has it coming, in my opinion.
There are little overlaps between Walker and Parker but they are in very different contexts. Both of them intentionally crash cars, but one does it in a robbery and the other does it to scare his passenger. Also both of them lead the ex-partner to believe they’re going to work together to get the money back, but don’t really mean it.
I think fans of Badass Cinema owe it to themselves to see both pictures. In a way I like Parker better, because he’s shown as more of a down and dirty resourceful criminal, who pickpockets and slams people’s hands and even knows how to frame a cop. And I think Payback is funnier, mainly because of the supporting cast like David Paymer and whatsisdick and some of these other fellas. James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson both have small roles and these are two of the very few actors working today who I feel have the ability to portray me in a movie.
BUT, Point Blank on the other hand is a little more artistical in its filmatization. I really like the editing and the whole story. There are several great set piece type scenes, like when Walker beats several guys backstage at a soul club and the screams are barely distinguishable from the James Brown like performance going on on stage. And both Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson who plays his sister-in-law Chris are good. The world is more realistic in this one, there aren’t any exploding cars or anything, although there is one outdated special effect in a crucial scene that is kind of funny looking.
Kudos to director John Boorman cause there is no cornholing or anything. You will like this one in my opinion.
JULY 2005 UPDATE: THE DVD RELEASE
Since I reviewed POINT BLANK way-back-when I’ve seen it a few more times, I’ve learned alot more about the films of Cinema, and I’ve read a whole assload of Richard Stark books. My appreciation for the movie has grown even as I’ve realized how unfaithful it is to the great character from the books.
POINT BLANK is a great movie. Lee Marvin is at the height of his badass skills, and any time you combine that with arty pretentious direction like this, you’re getting something special. There are so many brilliant shots and scenes in this one. My favorite is the loud CLANK CLANK CLANK of Walker walking down the hallway leading up to his kicking the door down, grabbing his wife by the mouth, then kicking in the bedroom door, lunging toward the bed and unloading all his bullets into it before he realizes it’s empty. All in one motion. And this scene is followed up by another clever one, a long dialogue scene where he manages to not talk or move at all.
The best thing about this finally coming to DVD is that now I get to see it in widescreen. I only saw the pan and scan VHS before and this makes a huge difference. It’s also a beautiful transfer that shows off the colors the same way Angie Dickinson shows off her body in the movie.
There’s a commentary track with Steve Soderbergh (THE LIMEY) interviewing Boorman. Boorman tells some good stories, like how the dad from Doogie Howser, who plays the assassin, stalked him for days to prove he was right for the role. Also there’s one about Lee Marvin punching John Vernon in the stomach and making him cry. Which in my opinion is unethical. Soderbergh is always funny on his own commentary tracks but for this one he’s very serious. You can tell he loves this movie and he asks him all kinds of questions about the lenses and stuff, more like he’s asking him what he’s always wanted to ask him than interviewing him for the benefit of the viewer. But I like that approach.
Soderbergh asks him about this ghost shit. Because of the arty feel of the movie, some of the weird imagery and the ambiguous ending where Walker sort of disippates into the air like Michael Meyers, alot of people think he really died at the beginning. I’ve always felt this was horse shit because this is Parker from the Richard Stark books. He gets bullets pulled out and he comes back. This is Parker we’re talking about, he does that kind of shit. At the end of the book he gets plastic surgery and comes back again. In another book he loses his cover name and has to start all over again without all the money he’s stolen over the years. He’s a tough cookie, but he’s not a fuckin ghost.
Boorman does not directly contradict my “not a fuckin ghost” interpretation, but he does say it’s up to the viewer. And then later when discussing specific scenes it becomes clear that he wanted to leave that impression, anyway.
As great as Lee Marvin is – and don’t get me wrong, this is definitely the best movie made out of a Richard Stark book – his Walker is pretty damn different from Parker. For one thing, he doesn’t even seem to be a career criminal. As far as we know, he just got into this to help his friend. More importantly, the guy is too damn emotional. Parker’s trademark is his coldheartedness. He is betrayed by his wife and friend, but to him it’s not as much about revenge as it is about the principle of getting back his cut of the robbery. The other movie PAYBACK is called payback not because he’s getting revenge, but because he wants to be reimbursed. Walker seems pretty upset about the whole business though. He sits there on the couch looking like he’s been hit by a train and had his eyes pecked out by crows for three days before they cleaned him off the rails. Then after his wife dies he hangs around the house and mopes about it. And there’s some sexual tension going on too. In the books, he only has sex between jobs.
(And Batman’s cape is blue, NOT black.)
The most telling thing on the commentary is when Boorman says the movie is about a man coming back from the dead and trying to recapture his humanity. That is pretty much the exact opposite of what the books are about. I really wonder what Richard Stark and his colleague Donald Westlake think about this. On one hand, it might be frustrating to have a bunch of movies based on your books and none of them seem very interested in capturing what the book was about. On the other hand, this movie is so fuckin great, it would be weird for him not to love it and be honored by it.
Unfortunately, Richard Stark is not mentioned at all on the commentary track. Boorman does make the same joke he’s been making for years about Lee Marvin throwing an earlier script out the window and Mel Gibson picking it up out of the gutter. Apparently it really is true that Marvin and Boorman hated the original script and that PAYBACK ended up somewhat similar to it. But you know why? Because it’s more like the book. So isn’t he sort of saying the book is a piece of shit? I don’t know. I would have to disagree with that if that’s what he’s saying. Even if he is the director of HELL IN THE PACIFIC.
The other extras include a trailer (I dig the way it spells out POINT BLANK to the rhythm of the shots he fires into the bed) and a two part circa ’67 featurette called THE ROCK. It’s not great or insightful but of course it’s cool to see Lee Marvin and John Boorman on location at Alcatraz. The funniest part is when Angie Dickinson (as herself) has an internal monologue about how awful it must’ve been to be locked up in Alcatraz. I’m not sure why they did that. But if they’d do it on Entertainment Tonight I might watch it.
Anyway, POINT BLANK is required viewing for all fans of Badass Cinema. It’s pretty much Chapter 1 in the textbook.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.