The Dirty Dozen)). If you happen to rip him off after a routine robbery on abandoned Alcatraz Island and shoot him and leave him for dead he will come after you for sure. He wants what’s his. He wants $93K. So promise me you won’t ever do that, ok? Good. Thanks.
But there were a couple of stupid bastards who didn’t do such a thing. Friend Mal (John Vernon (Ernest Goes to Camp)) and wife Lynne (Sharon Acker (Happy Birthday to Me)) think they’ve gotten away with an easy score. Mal needs the money to settle a debt with some sort of organized crime outfit so he takes Walker’s share. Lynne doesn’t love Walker anymore and decides to go along with the double cross. When Walker recuperates he focuses like a laser beam on looking for these two so he can claim his money and be on his way.
The beauty of this story is the simplicity. It truly is only about the money. Walker never expresses a desire for revenge. If he gets some pleasure out of beating up and bullying the scumbags he comes across we’re never clued in. It’s weird to imagine but I suppose if Mal gave him the $93,000 immediately the movie would be over in like fifteens mins. Of course it’s not that easy. In fact it seems impossible.
Walker has to go up against not only Mal but the entire syndicate that’s backing him. He works his way up the chain to get to the heads and shows them the same level of insolence and impatience he would to any low level asshole. He slaps them around, shoves a gun in their face and plainly states in the first ten seconds upon meeting them that if he doesn’t get his money he’ll kill them. He doesn’t take shit from nobody.
This is such a badass character but the thing is he’s not terribly interesting. The combination of knowing so little about Walker and his robotic single minded approach makes him seem inhuman. He even uses his sister-in-law as bait to get at Mal with little regard for her safety or feelings. Afterwards she tells him “you died at Alcatraz alright, goodbye Walker” and he barely gets out a hurried “yeah, goodbye” before coolly moving on to his next target. Walker’s driven but that’s pretty much all he is which is a shame. They could’ve given him a touch more personality and it only would’ve helped.
With that said Lee Marvin is fantastic in the role. He was born for this one. His hulking build and weathered face are perfect for someone as humorless as Walker. Marvin’s searing stare and stoic performance are really what make the character fun to watch. You can’t wait to see him shoot a mean ass look to the next guy he encounters and watch that sucker squirm.
However I do have to say I’m not totally into the arty way this picture is sometimes edited. Director John Boorman (Deliverance, Exorcist II: The Heretic) may have felt he had to make up for the incredibly straightforward plot by using lamenting voice over, characters staring off into space or aimlessly drifting around a room and cutting in different, and sometimes alternate, shots of other scenes at various points like Walker’s dreaming. And maybe that was the intent, like this is Walker’s dream of revenge as he lays dying. I prefer not to believe that though because the it-was-all-a-dream stunt is such bullshit in movies. It’s a cop out. Stand by your vision filmmakers. It isn’t explicitly stated either way in Point Blank but still, the editing gives a fantasy hallucinatory tilt to the whole thing and I don’t think it needed that. What’s even more frustrating is this technique isn’t used consistently either with heavy employment during the first and last thirds and leaving the middle of the film relatively normal.
So what should be one of the best most grizzled action thrillers ever made and a slam dunk recommendation becomes muddied by stylistic choices and perhaps an attempt to elevate the material. But look I’ll give it to ya point blank, I definitely think you guys will enjoy it because the plethora of badass shit is undeniable and inescapable. Actually, it’s a must see.
As an aside this is based off a book called The Hunter by Donald E. Westlake which was the first in a series featuring the protagonist Parker. Payback starring Mel Gibson (What Women Want) was the second film adaptation. I re-watched that to see how it holds up and to compare to Point Blank. It’s not great but not too terrible either. They go for a surprising amount of jokes that aren’t very funny and the villains are even bigger slimy assholes than in Point Blank. Although they did give Porter (this version’s Walker/Parker) some emotional background and made him less of a Neanderthal at times.
Brian Helgeland (42, writer: L.A. Confidential) wrote and directed but had the project taken away from him during editing. He put together his own cut called Payback: Straight Up which is better than the theatrically released version. The pace is tighter, a lot of the jokes are cut out and the entire third act plays out differently including a simpler and more satisfying ending. If you haven’t seen Payback you aren’t missing anything but if you’re curious then try to seek out the Straight Up version.