Point Blank ★★★★

Well, what do you know? It has been some years since I last saw this and, somewhere down the line, I began to labour under the misapprehension that Lee Marvin's character was called Parker here, just as he was in the novel the film is based on (and its subsequent follow-ups) by Richard Stark aka Donald E. Westlake. Indeed, you can see me make this mistake in my recent reviews of two of the 'sequels'; The Split and The Outfit. But no, he's called Walker. How did I forget that?

After witnessing the inane, jingoistic 'roid rage of Stallone in two Rambo movies this week it was something of a relief to spend ninety minutes in the company of a real hard man; Lee Marvin. As Park--sorry, Walker, Marvin is an absolute force of nature in John Boorman's Point Blank, an existentialist revenge thriller in which, it's never quite clear that what we are witnessing is actually real. In fact, as the movie progresses it all becomes very unreal.

I quite like the idea that Walker is dead - or at least caught on the cusp between life and death - throughout the movie, and is simply dreaming the various stages of revenge that he exacts upon 'the corporation' who robbed him of his $93,000. Boorman's film is an ethereal, trippy and fractured experience that is heavily influenced by the envelope-pushing of temporal and spatial narratives in modern European cinema such as the French nouvelle vague. No less a figure than Steven Soderbergh believes the film is a fantasy, citing the opening shots of a bullet-ridden Walker swimming from Alcatraz with seeming ease to him on a ferry overlooking the same island as a woman on the loudspeaker describes the impossibility of escape as proof. (Interestingly, Soderbergh also believes that this is a 'memory film' for Marvin, whose interest in the film and its experimental nature stemmed from exorcising the ghosts of his own brutalising experiences in WWII). When Angie Dickinson remarks that he really did die on Alcatraz, is Walker being literal when he replies yes? Maybe they're not discussing his lack of compassion, after all. Also, if Walker is indeed dead, it certainly explains how he proves so evasive to some characters during the film (cops don't seem to spot him, nor does James Sikking's hitman, with memorable results that final for Carter). It also explains the ending - a ghost laid to rest when his business on this earth is concluded.

Real or a dream? I don't know. But what I do know is that the swinging sixties were a high time for Hollywood's deployment of a creative 'brain drain' of filmmakers from the UK, with Boorman ripping up the rule book here and Peter Yates delivering the stylish Steve McQueen policier Bullitt a year later. I love how Boorman depicts LA as a parched, stark environment for Marvin's shadow to glide effortlessly through. Whatever your opinion, Point Blank is something special. Though if you prefer your thrillers to have both feet on the ground, then The Outfit is probably the better film adaptation of a Stark novel.

Mark liked these reviews