Point Blank (1967)

“Do you remember… when we met? The rain? You were a little drunk. So was I. You were funny when you were drunk. Strange. I don’t remember very much, but… suddenly… we were together. It was wonderful at first. I loved you. Then Mal happened. You talked a lot about Mal. Mal Reese. He was very real for me. Until I met him. That night at the reunion… when you found Mal again and brought him home. The two of you together. Then, it was the three of us… laughing. It was… It was perfect. And… I think I was happier then than any other time. I seemed to be floating… between the two of you. Suddenly, I began to drift toward Mal. And I just went with it.”

‘Point Blank’, directed by John Boorman in 1967, is an American crime drama starring Lee Marvin as Walker, a criminal seeking revenge on his former partner after he is double-crossed and left for dead. The film is a thriller, but constructed in an usual, experimental way. The narrative is formed through a series of complex flashbacks that unsettle the viewer and give a sense of unreality. It feels rather like an attack on Hollywood genres by a British director, rather than a homage or example of one. The film is inextricably tied in with the charismatic star persona of Marvin, who as, Walker, dominates every scene with a kind of impassive, buttoned down menace. The film has a dreamlike structure and feel, helps not only by the multi-layered soundtrack and the editing, but also by the location work in San Francisco and, more importantly, in the recently decommissioned Alcatraz. For such a straightforward genre – the revenge, crime drama – ‘Point Blank’ has an ambiguity about it that it shares with many of the great films. Boorman went on to make a series of unsettling and critically dividing films, but you can see the genesis of his approach to American cinema here.

Would I recommend it? Yes – it would make sense to watch this with a similarly unusual crime drama – I’d go for ‘The Killing of a Chinese Bookie’.

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