Point Blank (1967)


jeez just posting this image makes me want to see it again!
Jeez just posting this image makes me want to see it again!

Genre: Neo-Noir Crime Thriller

Starring: Lee Marvin (The Dirty DozenThe Big Red One), Angie Dickinson (Rio Bravo"Policewoman")

Directed By: John Boorman (DeliveranceExorcist II: The Heretic

Overview: A man is double-crossed and left for dead by his wife and his best friend. Now he’s healed and looking to get back the money they stole from him, and perhaps a little vengeance for the mistake they made of letting him live.

Lee Marvin has all the charm of a shiny new red brick. But a brick has potential. You can use it to build something, to destroy something, or just plain knock someone’s teeth out. In a film where a man is getting even and hard, John Boorman picks up that stoic blunt force that is Lee Marvin and throws it with the deft arm of a pro right at his enemies, right at us. Yet, instead of destroying with that brick, Boorman and Marvin build Point Blank into a house of cinematic art and a masterpiece of neo-noir that is unfortunately far too obscure for humanity’s own good.

There’s no running around in a web of confusion trying to figure out who did what when how like in films The Big Sleep or Kiss Me Deadly. The story of Point Blank is rooted in linear simplicity. We begin with Walker (Lee Marvin) getting double-crossed by his own wife Lynne (Sharon Acker) and his once best friend and partner Mal Reese (John Vernon). I particular enjoyed this name, as Mal also means evil in French. Mal pumps two bullets into Walker and leaves him to die in a dusty old cell in the abandoned Alcatraz prison. Now that Walker’s well again, there’s a very direct, very uncomfortable and ever-shrinking line separating Walker and Reese. Walker is going to get his money and whoever has it, and thanks to a nameless contact, Walker’s given a direction to be unleashed towards. In exchange for the aid of the mysterious stranger, Walker goes after the organization that Mal works for - A to B to C - simple. You might even say too simple, but in this skeletal plotline are a thousand opportunities fulfilled, from developing greasy car salesmen characters to dramatic yet dangerous fight scenes, from slick dialogue to suspense-filled fortress infiltrations. Best of all, what sets Point Blank apart is the cinematography and editing. There’s tales told in silence, emotions gushed in montage and these shine through the gritty and become art. The most memorable of these is a scene where Walker paces hurriedly to find his wife, his first real steps on a long list of destinations. As he walks, a montage begins all while his footfalls reverberate in rhythm to Walker’s memories. This scene, which happens early on, was the first indication that what I was experiencing was more than another average moneybag plot – it was something masterfully crafted and this excellence holds up throughout the film. From beautiful shots to introspective montages to enticing character arcs, Point Blank has it all. And the cast delivers, delivers, delivers.

So much constant intensity!

Angie Dickinson impresses in the role of Chris, especially in a scene where she nearly has a breakdown when realizing she’s been dragged too far deep into the rabbit hole. Although Lloyd Bochner’s role of Carter was relatively short, his character arc was one of my favorites – from sitting high and mighty, rolling his eyes at Walker’s ridiculous demands to quickly realizing that Walker is not someone to be trifled with. There’s also the wonderful role of one of the company men, Brewster, played by Carroll O'Connor, a decade before he became Archie Bunker to “All in the Family”. Without Lee Marvin, however, this film may never have been as perfect as it is. He takes wonderful rein with Walker, a fast, cold, effective goon who just wants his due. In some scenes he’s the hurt silent type, in others a stoic statue taking his beatings, and through it all, the drive that carries him forward is the reason to watch, to see how or if he’ll get the job done.

Without mincing words Point Blank is one of the best films I’ve seen this year, one of the few that gets the Filmsquish most coveted 90%. A week later I needed to watch it again to make sure I remembered everything that needed to be praised about it. Looking back at what I’ve written, I still don’t think I’ve done it justice. Point Blank is a champion of its genre, had made me chase down more Marvin, and is a glorious good time.


Performance: 9 Cinematography: 10 Script: 8 Plot: 9 Mood: 9

Overall Rating: 90% (Get Up Close)

As I watched the story of Point Blank unfold, it reminded me quite a bit of a graphic novel I read earlier this year. I remembered it quite fondly as an incredible neo-noir tale about a man reaping vengeance on a group for sins of the father. The more I watched, the more I felt that one influenced the other. It drove me nuts trying to remember the name of that graphic novel, but lo and behold the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book came through and told me that Point Blank was based on Donald E. Westlake’s 1964 novel Hunter. Guess what the name of that incredible graphic novel was?

...of course I recommend it.

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Excellent write-up Squish! This is one of the films I've been wanting to see since a little while now. I am a big fan of Lee Marvin and your review makes me want to see it even more!

This is the definative Marvin role, for sure. I'd heard a lot about this film before I finally saw it, and I have to say it surprised me. Rather that presenting Walker as a one-dimensional angel of death, I like the way the film adds the element of sadness and resignation. It's like "Dammit, why don't you just give me my money, so I don't have to do all this stuff?"

 Squish...do you have a blog-a-thon in your near future?

Off the top of my head I'd say no, but since you mention it... What about another Billy Wilderthon?

Well, I will never host another blog-a-thon myself, but if you were gonna do one,  i'd probably roust myself to write something.

 One thought i had was a "Modern Noir" blog-a-thon. That is, Noirs done after the heyday of the traditional Noir. (say, after 1960...for a nice definitive cut-off point)

I was thinking about it after seeing the great Arthur Penn film Night Moves (1975)a while back.

Just a thought.      :)

I'm so busy these days but that idea is much better than another Wilder-thon. I could, dig up archives, and pass on recommendation, and more importantly, find some sweet new fresh Noir.


no promises, but it's on my mind...

Point Blank is a great example of why I love "1001 Movies."  I would never have seen Point Blank on my own.  I had never even heard of it before starting my odyssey.  But holy crap, it blew me away.  It was beyond amazing and I loved it so much and I never would have seen it had it not been for The Book.  


I really want to watch it again.  I DVR'ed it when TCM aired it a few weeks ago.  Plans for this weekend, perhaps?

I'm there! Start up the BBQ!

I picked up The Hunter graphic novel after reading this review.  I've only just started reading it and was drawn to the parallels between this and "Payback"  Sure enough, turns out that movie is also based on the same novel.  Parker, Porter, tomato, tomahto.

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