RogerBW's Blog

Point Blank (1967) 03 April 2022

1967 crime/revenge film, dir. John Boorman, Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson; IMDb / allmovie. Walker's partner in crime betrayed him, took his wife and left him for dead. Walker wants his money back.

In terms of plot, the story is a very standard one of revenge and murder. It's raised in interest by two things: Marvin's acting, and Boorman's direction. And really it's Marvin's lack of acting that stands out: he doesn't come over as a man driven by revenge, or greed, or anything really, but just sits there being stony-faced. He tracks down his ex-wife, and she's so thrown by this flatness that she confesses everything she knows and then kills herself. (Originally that scene was written as more of a two-hander, but Marvin refused to say his lines because he thought it would work better this way, and Sharon Acker's part was hastily rewritten.) A revenge story tends to involve some sort of character arc, like the protagonist realising what he still had that he's lost to get his vengeance; there's nothing like that here. (I've liked Marvin better as second fiddle, when he has a strong protagonist to play off.)

So the other side of this, the more positive side, is Boorman's direction; just as the next year's The Thomas Crown Affair would indulge itself in split screens, Boorman (making his first feature, after Catch Us If You Can for The Dave Clark Five) shoots at unusual angles and in odd ways: up through the grating, behind a screen on which a film is being projected, or with long dialogue-free sections. In particular the introduction, a combination of the betrayal and the friendship leading up to it, is deliberately confusing in a way that's risky when the audience is expecting something conventional.

There are some very good bits. When someone goes over a balcony dropping the bedsheet he was wearing, Boorman resists the urge to have it blown symbolically away on the wind. When someone's being set up to be killed, it's beautifully done, and the LA River culverts are always atmospheric.

I wonder how much the film at the time relied on things that to me as a modern viewer are much less relevant: Marvin's star power, strong enough to give him final cut approval (which he handed over to the largely-untried Boorman), and the fact that this was the first film to be shot (partly) on Alcatraz Island, which had closed as a prison in 1963.

But in the end, while I enjoyed it, I'd have to say that this is not worth going to any trouble to see – unless you're already a Lee Marvin fan. Yes, Boorman made Deliverance and Excalibur; but he also made Exorcist II: The Heretic and Zardoz.

Once more if you want more of my witterings you should listen to Ribbon of Memes.

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See also:
The Thomas Crown Affair (I)

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