Thursday, March 27, 2008

Point Blank (1967)

The Action Mutant…
thinks Lee Marvin can fuck people up from the dead!

Point Blank (1967)

review by Joe Burrows

Simple analogy time: If Charles Bronson is the God of all old school action heroes, then Lee Marvin is their Jesus. Everyone points to Bronson for how distinctive he sounded and looked but Marvin may have been just as distinctive, if not more so. With a voice that sounded like Robert Mitchum after a three day whiskey bender and a seemingly permanent scowl etched across his face, Marvin came off as a guy charming enough to have a drink with yet angry enough to throw down on you. And it didn’t matter who you were either. Marvin’s characters didn’t play favorites with women or other ethnicities; he just ran through everyone he needed to until he reached the end of his mission (even though his weary exterior made it seem like he wouldn’t hold up for the rest of the day). And yet there was that other side (like in his Oscar winning turn in Cat Ballou) that showed the guy had a fun side that gave him more dimensions than you thought he had. It seems like I discover a new Marvin film I haven’t seen before every few years or so and this is one of his most famous. And, good Lord is he ever pissed in this one!

The Plot, as it was:
Lee Marvin is Walker, a man left for dead in a jail cell by his wife Lynne (Sharon Acker) and his partner-in-crime Mal Reese (John Vernon). The three just intercepted a money exchange at Alcatraz but Reese double crossed his partner and left with his woman and his share of the money ($93,000). Able to escape, Walker finds out that the robbery was all a part of a criminal operation within a high powered corporation. Walker becomes determined to collect what’s his or kill anyone involved with keeping his money from him. The best question to ask is not whether he’ll succeed or not but…is any of this actually happening?

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Point Blank is certainly a rare bird. It’s a great antihero film made all the more engrossing by the fact that you don’t know which side of the fence you’re supposed to be riding. On one hand, you root for Walker to do harm to those that have done him in because that’s just what you do with the hero. On the other hand, as one character points out, “You threaten a financial structure like this for $93,000?” I mean, railing against capitalism is one thing but Walker is not exactly going for all of the company’s riches. His $93,000 is a very small sum in the grand scheme of this process and he seems more sore about that than being left for dead! And then, there’s the matter of if any of this actually happened. It’s obvious from the opening frames that Walker is pretty much on death’s doorstep and the inclusion of hallucinations and flashbacks during the course of the film give the viewer the impression that this is all just one big revenge fantasy cooked up in Walker’s dying brain. You never really feel sure about what Walker’s experiencing, even though a lot of his actions seem to be filmed as if they are in a haze. There are jazzy, colorful surroundings accentuated by director John Boorman, which counters the coldness of Walker’s mere presence. The undercurrent of the film is that no matter how the story takes place, it can be looked at as a modern day Western tale; a one man Wild Bunch, if you will. Walker is a part of the “old guard” of doing things, in which he looks out for himself and comes barreling into town for one purpose. He is pretty much the individual gunslinger and “the man with no name” (his name being “Walker” is about as simple as you can get without referring to him as no one). The thought of Walker’s story being either traditional cinematic revenge fare or half baked fantasy is irrelevant. Either way, Walker is rallying against the machine-like, modern way the world works now. As his nemesis, Vernon show equal amounts of menace and pathetic shallowness and Carroll O’Connor does well in his small role. All in all, Point Blank is a great thriller that puts an interesting spin on the vengeance fantasy.

Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- Sid Haig (Capt. Spaulding from House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects) is credited as “First Penthouse Lobby Guard”.

Body Count/Violence: 7. Though it’s not an overly bloody tale, there is a definite streak of meanness to Point Blank. Mostly everyone is shot to death but the real highlight is Walker fighting dirty with a pair of goons at a nightclub. He uses everything that isn’t nailed down and even turns a pummeled foe over onto his back just to punch him in the balls! That’s RUTHLESS!

Sexuality/Nudity: There are several moments of people rolling about in bed but nothing is shown, only implied. Vernon’s half naked posterior and Angie Dickinson’s nude silhouette are briefly seen (the latter reminds me that if I had a time machine, 1967 Angie Dickinson would be near the top of the list to…oh, well).

Language/Dialogue: None, though there’s a lot of tough talk. This was rated R back in the day but it’s basically a light PG-13 now, at best.

How bad was it?:
It was viewed as hideous and nasty by wimpy critics at the time. Of course, Ebert (patron saint of the misunderstood masterpiece) gave it ***/**** and since then, most critics have followed that line. This is definitely a cult favorite that has been credited in lending influence to the neo-noir styling of Tarantino and the like.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Made on a $3 million budget by MGM, Point Blank premiered in the U.S on 9/30/67. Though no box office records seem present, it has earned $3.5 million in rentals since that time.

Film: ****/*****
Entertainment value: ****/*****

Copyright 2007 The Action Mutant.

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