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Point Blank

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Point Blank

Starring: Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson
Director: John Boorman
Rated: NR
RunTime: 92 Minutes
Release Date: August 1967
Genres: Action, Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Keenan Wynn, Carroll O'Connor, Lloyd Bochner, John Vernon, Michael Strong

Review by Dragan Antulov
3 stars out of 4

Few films have been so thoroughly and universally trashed by the critics as PAYBACK, 1999 crime thriller by Brian Helgeland. Most of them attacked the overuse of violence and utter lack of any moral compass among its characters. The author of this review agrees with most of the critics, but only partially. The filmmakers had it coming, but for entirely different reasons. The biggest crime made by makers of PAYBACK lies in the fact that they had dared to remake POINT BLANK, 1967 film by John Boorman. That film happened to be one of the best underrated film classics of all times, and its reputation really shouldn't have been tarnished by uninspired and tedious remake.

The plot of the original film is based on THE HUNTER, 1964 novel by Donald E. Westlake. Its protagonist (played by Lee Marvin) is known only by the name Walker. His best friend Mal Reese (played by John Vernon) is a gangster owing huge debt to all-powerful Organisation. In order to save his friend's life, Walker agrees to take part in a robbery that would pay Reese's debt. But, instead of gratitude, Walker receives two bullets by Reese, who then takes off with Walker's adulterous wife Lynne (played by Sharon Acker) and Walker's 93,000 US$ share of the loot. Walker was left for dead, but he managed to survive and a year later he is approached by some creepy individual named Yost (played by Keenan Wynn). Yost offers information about Lynne and Reese in exchange for Walker's help with his own plans about Organisation. Walker agrees and begins the violent campaign to take revenge and retrieve his money.

One of the reasons why POINT BLANK was somewhat shadowed by other films of 1960s lies in the fact that it was probably made at least a decade before its time. Dark, nihilistic script by Alexander Jacobs, David and Rafe Newhouse, as well as extremely violent, amoral and emotionally damaged protagonists belong more to the 1970s than to idealistic 1960s. However, most critics and viewers probably failed to see the real element of the originality in POINT BLANK. The reason why this film should enter all film encyclopaedias lies in the original directorial approach and very distinct visual style employed by its director John Boorman. Rather simplistic plot and even simpler characters are enhanced by the heavy atmosphere and use of tricks today mostly associated with "artsy" films or music videos - slow motion, repetitive flashbacks, fast editing and, above all, very haunting soundtrack by Stephen Edwards. POINT BLANK therefore looks very different from most of the crime thrillers. Another thing that makes it very distinct is a rather original perspective on the criminal underworld - people who inhabit such realms are well- dressed, well-educated, they live in luxurious, modern, stylish apartments and houses and, generally speaking, and instead of looking like the pariahs of the society, they look like its pillars. In that regard, by presenting criminals like modern-day aristocracy and criminal organisations as equivalent of all-powerful state POINT BLANK would resemble some crime thrillers of the latter decades.

Heavy atmosphere and style of POINT BLANK compensated the simplicity of the script, but Boorman, unfortunately, overplayed that card. In some instances the events on the screen are unclear, characters act irrationally and film even lacks the proper closure, leaving the audience without expected catharsis. Boorman even makes more confusion with some surreal shots, hinting that the whole film could be nothing more than a fantasy of a dying Walker. On the other hand, the viewers are still focused thanks to excellent cast. Lee Marvin played wonderful and complex role of a seemingly simple character - at first he is man in love, faithful friend, and later he turns into extremely violent yet stone-cold killer whose motivations shift, but his determination does not. His acting is very subtle, and the emotional states of Walker are presented through small gestures, short glances or cold, impersonal action. He managed to overshadow everyone else, including very energetic Angie Dickinson as his accidental partner. Overshadowed by the lead or not, supporting cast is splendid - John Vernon played the first of his many villainous roles, James Sikking is great as cynical hitman, as well as Lloyd Bochner and Carroll O'Connor as corporate gangsters. Sharon Acker as his wife appears relatively shortly, but her role is also memorable, especially during her final monologue that expresses the emotional emptiness of her character.

POINT BLANK perhaps earned its reputation simply by being shot in the right time, but it could provide good inspiration to future film- makers. With better results than the last time, we should all hope.

Copyright 1999 Dragan Antulov

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