An intense meditation on manhood and loneliness, POINT BLANK is a stylish thriller directed by John Boorman and starring Lee Marvin. An adaptation of Donald Westlake’s first Parker novel, The Hunter, Marvin growls and stares and sulks his way through one of his best pictures. Walker (renamed from the novel) is tough guy criminal who’s been betrayed by both his friend and his wife — his friend, Mal, brings him in on a job, and in the afterglow of a successful heist, his wife, Lynne (Sharon Acker) leaves him for the friend and his friend shoots Walker and leaves him for dead inside Alcatraz. Cut to a couple years later. Walker survives the shooting and he’s out for revenge. He keeps telling everyone that he wants the $93,000 cut from the job that Mal organized, but that’s the lie you tell yourself when you don’t want to acknowledge the truth. Walker is a bit of post-Casino Royale James Bond, only without a supporting apparatus to keep him on track. He’s dared to love and laugh and have friends and get married and all of that got him burned. He let someone in and was betrayed and he’s not willing to let that happen, again, so he winds himself up tight against the world and convinces himself going after his 93k is a point of honor instead of just a justification for striking back at a world that’s hurt him.
Angie Dickinson plays his wife’s sister and Walker uses her to seduce the ex-friend so he can get the drop on him. These are the most exciting pieces of the movie – Angie seduces the ex-friend as Walker gets the cops to show up for an emergency call next door. As the ex-friend’s security is looking across the street, Walker coolly makes his way up to the penthouse. Walker is all about prioritizing smarts over violence, but he walks around with all the tension of a closed fist ready to strike. It’s that duality of cool action and physical tension that helps make Walker such an interesting character. There’s great performances in smaller roles from John Vernon, Angie Dickinson, and Carol O’Connor to help round out the film.
But make no mistake, POINT BLANK succeeds because of Lee Marvin’s performance and John Boorman’s direction, which is stylish without smashing it in your face. The use of minimalist settings – an airport hallway that appears empty, an office and home that have virtually no personality (Dickinson even remarks at one point about the house how it’s clear no one lives there), Alcatraz, the LA river bed – is subtle enough that you can take it or leave it, but it’s clear Boorman has put thought into reinforcing Walker’s cold personality with cold locales.
The settings that do have personality are there to remind you of the betrayals: Mal’s penthouse apartment and the place Lynne shared with Mal before he left her just as she’d left Walker. It’s also in these places where Walker is most prone to losing his cool. POINT BLANK is a fantastic movie. I rented it through Prime.