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Point Blank (1967)

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Score: 10/10

Genre: Crime Drama and Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.

Release Date: August 30th, 1967 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: John Boorman Actors: Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Keenan Wynn, Carroll O’Connor, Lloyd Bochner, Michael Strong, John Vernon, James Sikking

H

e’s shot repeatedly and left for dead – but he doesn’t die. Walker (Lee Marvin) stirs, awaking in a prison with dreamlike memories that he must piece back together. The narrative starts with flashbacks overlapping current, hallucinatory, fevered remembrances of a heist job gone wrong. Guards are killed and Walker’s wife Lynne (Sharon Acker) aids in his double-crossing by partner Mal Reese (John Vernon). Inside Alcatraz, the location of a drop, Walker revives, escapes, and is confronted by Yost (Keenan Wynn), a mysterious agent who wants to get to Reese as much as Walker does, and seems to know too much about everything.

Reese buys his way back into “the organization,” with $93,000 he stole from Walker’s share of the loot. The cold-hearted hunter starts by visiting his wife’s apartment, where he learns that Reese left her three months earlier. Lynne chronicles her gradually diminishing romantic feelings for her husband and details her involvement with Reese. As day turns to night, Walker says absolutely nothing and she commits suicide out of guilt. He then proceeds to track down Reese’s associates, until one of them gives up the name Chris (Angie Dickinson), Lynne’s sister. After cornering “Big John” Stegman (Michael Strong), Walker continues to work his way up the food chain, where Frederick Carter (Lloyd Bochner) sits at the heavily guarded top (along with businessmen Brewster, played by Carroll O’Connor, and Fairfax).

When Walker goes to his wife’s apartment, he stomps all the way, with heavily clicking shoe heels that preside over the top of numerous scenes of Lynne beautifying herself (through the course of the morning) before culminating in his smashing his way through her door just as she arrives home. It’s one of the most unique, brilliant bits of editing witnessed in any film. The car chase choreography and camerawork is similarly exhilarating, signaling the arrival of the breathtaking tricks of “The French Connection” in 1971. Still images, haunting trombone music, and psychedelic colors play across the screen. Music or sound effects seem to always oversee actions in jarring methods, such as when Walker combats two thugs in a club, with a screeching singer wailing to an oblivious crowd in the background.

Time moves at a completely different pace in director John Boorman’s strikingly hypnotic masterpiece of noirish gunmen and victimized femme fatales. The entire project is like a drug-induced delusion (a bathtub full of broken glass and aromatic liquids mixing together like a kaleidoscope symbolizes the acid trip narrative), with actions taking place out of order, repeated, depicted through flashbacks, or adorned with voiceover explanations. When the fight scenes break out, some are of a calamitous, rambunctious nature, while others actually take place offscreen, with the aftermath presented immediately. Still others are shown from afar. What could have been a commonplace heist film is artistically amplified through supremely creative structuring. Even a sex scene is shown through the twisted lens of haunting recollections.

Walker is fueled by revenge and stops at nothing to track his target. His motivation is such that nothing distracts him. Violence and torture are natural tools in his toolkit. But mincing words is not – he uses adjectives with such restraint that it would seem he believes he has a finite amount of vocalization remaining before he expires entirely. Many of his lines are but a single utterance. Lee Marvin assumes the part with riveting perfection, betraying no emotions and conducting his cold-blooded mission without hesitation or misstep. While Richard Stark’s novels about cool criminal Parker (changed here to Walker) would inspire several films (“Payback” [1999] and “Parker” [2013] among them), “Point Blank” is by far the best.

– Mike Massie

 



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