Tuesday, September 20, 2005

'What's My Name?'

This 1967 ice cold revenge flick starring Lee Marvin, Dean Wormer and even Carrol O'Connor really caught me by surprise. Watched it last night and it hit me like one of the many pistol whips dished out by Marvin. Point Blank is a brutal, barbaric and wildly entertaining tale of revenge with camera and editing work decades ahead of its time. If you thought Marvin's trademark movie was The Dirty Dozen (which also came out in '67, damn that was a good year for ol' Lee), then you'll be knocked on your ass from 'Point Blank' just as I was.

At its core, 'Point Blank' is a tale of the meanest sonofabitch criminal out to get the money that was stolen from him by a huge criminal syndicate. But thanks to the work of Marvin, some of the best editing of its era and a bold undercurrent to the story from director John Boorman, ‘Point Blank’ is a timeless classic It's not that they don't make 'em like 'Point Blank' any more, in fact they do (The Limey could be considered a modern re-telling and Mel Gibson's Payback was a straight-up, halfway decent remake), it's just that even with all the brutal violence and political incorrectness, 'Point Blank' contains a subtel secondary plot that would be too tempting for today's filmmakers to center the whole movie around.

Okay, I've alluded to this secondary plot twice now, but I'll hold off on explaining it until later, okay?

'Point Blank' finds Marvin's character 'Walker' in one of his many flashbacks to a robbery gone wrong on Alcatraz, when his partner Mal Reese stole his share of the money, ran off with his wife and also shot him twice in the gut for good measure. Walker was left for dead on The Rock, but somehow survived, and now he's back to get what's his, namely the $93,000 owed him and just maybe the lives of everyone who stands in his way.

Driven by a mysterious man named Yost who would also like to see a few choice middlemen in the syndicate taken down, Walker heads to Los Angeles for answers. Marvin masters the role of Walker, making his every movement and word as robotic as his emotionless violence. The best example of this is when he goes to his wife Lynne's house, where she is living with Reese. He throws open the door, covers her mouth, scouts out the area, and then rushes upstairs to fire four shots from his Magnum into the spot of his bed where he used to sleep, the spot that Reese has taken.

But Lynne is of no use to Walker, so he grabs her sister Chris and uses her beauty to infiltrate the syndicate and get closer to the men who have his money. Walker shakes 'em down, and when they can't help him, say goodbye. The way that Walker kills his way up the criminal corporate ladder is almost video game-like, with each department head acting as a boss at the end of a level. There's a great performance by Lloyd Bochner ('Twilight Zone' fans will instantly recognize him as the lead character from To Serve Man), who is tricked by Walker into walking into his own deadly trap. The idea of corporate runaround ('I can't get you your money!') was probably a new concept in 1967, but of course it's a much-parodied subject now, making 'Point Blank' all the more relavent now.

Throughout Walker's emotionless violence is his twisted relationship with Chris, who he still has some use for. Even though he is incapable of expressing any passion, he sees her as a way to get back at his wife and maybe an outlet of rare enjoyment. But whenever he gets close to her, all he can see are his enemies who slept with her as well. For Chris, being with Walker tears her apart since he somehow convinced her to sleep with a man she despises so Walker could slip past his guards, but he offers her the only protection from the criminals out to get her. This relationship is illustrated beautifully in a scene where Chris is so frustrated she starts hitting Walker as hard and as fast as she can. As Chris flails on Walker, he stands there not even blinking, taking every hit until she collapses from exhaustion.

When Walker works his way to the top of the syndicate, he finds himself at a familiar location to get his money: Alcatraz. But when the money is there and Yost reveals his agenda, Walker seems to disappear into the shadows of the place where he probably should have died. Although there is no spoken lines that would allude to Walker being a ghost of some kind (thankfully), the cryptic ending gives it some credence, as does the original Alcatraz scene where he takes two shots at point blank (I knew I would end up typing that!) range.

It's an elite revenge movie made timeless by Marvin's acting and presented with revolutionary jump cut flashbacks that would not become commonplace for another decade. Do yourself a favor and pick up 'Point Blank.'

No comments: