Lee Marvin is Walker, the hood, gunned down by his best bud (wormy John Vernon) and faithless wife (Sharon Acker) in the bowels of deserted Alcatraz over a measly $93,000. The money will grease Vernon’s way back into “the Organization,” a literal Murder, Inc., run like any dehumanized bureaucracy. Two years later, the reanimated Walker makes a relentless Frankenstein stagger through LAX (click clack), his footsteps on the soundtrack a metronome of coming doom (click clack) as his ex gets ominously dolled up in a beauty salon (click clack). She comes home and barely manages to shut the door (clack CLACK) when Walker busts through it, emptying his pistol into her tainted bed. She doesn’t have his money? He’ll have to find who does, even if it means wiping out the Organization one middle-manager at a time.
The dense flash-forwards and associative flashbacks (triggered by sounds, colors, thoughts) may be borrowed from Alain Resnais’ fragmented memory films of the Nouvelle Vague era, but Point Blank seems at once of its time and beyond it. As mod as the previous year’s Blow-up in its décor and desiccated chic—dig that nightclub fight bathed in psychedelic gels—Boorman’s film has a less gimmicky sense of the unreal. Early on, Walker is framed against straight lines that point his way like an arrow to hell; the Los Angeles he enters is a mosaic of shattered glass—reflective surfaces that splinter in every direction.
It’s the marvelous Marvin, simian and sardonically deadpan, who lifts Point Blank into the realm of the timeless. Numb and remote, his Walker is unaffected by anyone else in the frame: not his perhaps imaginary guide (Keenan Wynn); not his wife’s sister (magma-hot Angie Dickinson), even when, in the movie’s most memorable scene, she beats the impassive lug until she collapses. He gives the scandalous brutality its vicious authority, whether he’s delivering one of the movies’ first and most savagely effective nut-shots or reducing a corrupt car salesman’s pricey sedan to scrap metal. Even after 40 years, with Marvin as its blunt weapon of choice, Point Blank remains one cold hard shot to the head.
Point Blank screens Feb. 22-23 & 25 at the Belcourt’s Nashville Film Noir Festival; Brian Gordon from the Nashville Film Festival will introduce the 7 p.m. show Friday, with post-film discussion led by critic Jonathan Malcolm Lampley.
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