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USA 1967
Directed by
John Boorman
92 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

Point Blank

English director John Boorman's first American film (and only his second directorial job after Catch Us If You Can,1965)  is a superbly economical affair that takes what might have been a standard gangster story and imbues it with Zeitgeist-driven existential pessimism.  Lee Marvin, complete with a wardrobe of natty suits and no visible means of support, plays Walker who is out to retrieve the $93,000 that his double-crossing friend, Mal Reese (John Vernon), chiselled him out of after a job went wrong. Reese left him for dead and took off with Walker's wife. as we pick up the story Reese has moved up in the crime world and is protected by The Organisation but that is not going to stop the implacable Walker.

There is a good deal of debate about whether the events we see are in fact not real but Walker's dying reverie but Marvin gives such a galvanizing performance and Boorman’s direction is so dynamic (in one brilliant and completely extraneous scene the camera tracks Walker marching furiously down a long empty corridor his footsteps echoing the impending explosion of violence, in another Walker beats up a couple of thugs in a nightclub as a funk band singer works the audience into a frenzy) that we get swept up in the narrative.

To be properly appreciated the film should be seen on the big screen where Boorman’s visual sophistication in representing the mental state of his inarticulate, alienated protagonist, one who recalls those of French director, Jean-Pierre Melville seen in Le Samourai (1967) and Le Cercle Rouge (1970) and his extensive use of Antonioni-ish colour is to be seen at its best. And as a study in the contemporary Zeitgeist Point Blank also has much in common with another American classic, Midnight Cowboy (1969) also directed by an Englishman, John Schlesinger.

FYI:  The film was remade as Payback in 1999 with Mel Gibson in the lead but its real descendants can be seen in the yakuza films of Takeshi Kitano.




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