In February of 1999, I was 15-years-old and still living under a shroud of blissful ignorance regarding Mel Gibson and his hatred of my people (women and Jews). So at that point, I was still seeing his films, and I was a HUGE fan of Payback. I loved the look of it, the characters, and the take no prisoners approach to revenge. It wasn't until a few years later that I became aware Payback was a remake of Point Blank. So luckily, when Mel Gibson jumped aboard the douchetrain, I not only had the perfect fallback film, but quickly discovered that John Boorman's Point Blank is a better movie in every way possible.
Join me, revenge lovers, as I take you on the glorious journey that is, Point Blank...
The Story: Walker and his best bud, Mal, are trying to buy their way back into a shadowy crime syndicate known as The Organization. But after Mal, Walker, and Walker's wife Lynne pull a job to get the money needed for the buy in, Mal and Lynne turn on Walker and fill him full of lead, leaving him for serious dead. Too bad for pretty much everyone that Walker doesn't actually die, and decides to get as much revenge as possible against anyone involved with his attempted murder, while also reclaiming the portion of the take that was rightfully his.
I must admit, while I love crime films, and I love the 60s, I'm always a bit leery of 60s crime films. Mostly because of this:
Then you add on the fact that Point Blank's tagline is, "There are two kinds of people in his up-tight world: his victims and his women. And sometimes you can't tell them apart." Basically, I was expecting a whole film full of ladies getting the back of Lee Marvin's hand for wise talk. But luckily, there was almost none of that! In fact, while the women may not have had it fabulously in this film, I kind of loved the characterization. Specifically, Angie Dickinson (BOMBSHELL ALERT) was absolutely brilliant. She was bold, brave, beautiful, and absolutely elemental to the success or failure of Walker's plans. This is not something you saw often in crime films of that era and it definitely sets Point Blank apart.
And Jesus H. Hong, ladies (and fellas), I don't know if I'm alone in this one, but there is just something about Lee Marvin that sets my phasers on SPLOOSH! I first fell in love with this silver fox in The Dirty Dozen and have actively seen as many of films as possible since. I don't think he has ever hit a false note, but Point Blank may be his best performance ever. His steely reserve and anguish is evident in every scene, and his imposing stature makes him totally believable in the role. Overall, between the perfect 60s/current hipster suits and the angry eyebrows, everything about Lee Marvin in this film is perfection.
And oh my sweet baby Cthulhu, the cinematography in Point Blank is a film nerd's wet dream. Every five minutes, I was noting another scene that was so perfectly set up, I had to pause it and ogle. Philip H. Lathrop, director of photography here, was the DP on Days of Wine and Roses (another favorite of mine) and also did uncredited cinematography work on Breakfast at Tiffany's, making him at least partially responsible for some of my favorite shots in classic cinema. The film is shot with the loving hand of a cinematographer and director invested in their work, which is even more remarkable given that this was Boorman's first real film. He went on to direct Deliverance and Hope and Glory. You can see the director he'd grow in to with every shot of Point Blank.
This is one of those movies that makes you weep for the current state of cinema. So many directors have clearly tried to emulate the successes of Point Blank. Some, like Steven Soderbergh, succeed for the most part. Most seem to just rip off scenes but never do so with the nuance that make the original so beautiful. Because it's not just the style that makes Point Blank perfect. It's the script. Based on The Hunter by Donald E. Westlake, there is something almost supernatural about the way Point Blank unfolds. With a perfectly ambiguous ending, the film comes from a time when filmmakers were brave enough to let an audience interpret the story for themselves. I only wish I could have seen this movie with an audience in 1967 and had the pleasure of discussing it for the first time.
If you haven't yet seen Point Blank, it was just released on blu-ray, so this is the perfect time to treat yourself to a new film! This is one movie you will want to watch over and over again, hoping to discover the key to unlocking its secrets. (Spoiler alert: you never will.)
Rating: 5 Silver Foxes out of 5