Lee Marvin’s Walker wants his $93,000 – ‘Point Blank,’ period


Director John Boorman’s “Point Blank” is a movie that, when it was released in 1967, broke every rule about narrative, character arc development, back story and exposition. 

It's simple. A guy you thought was your friend gets you to help him on a deal. The deal goes south. Your friend shoots you and steals not only your $93,000, but also  your wife - if that counts for anything. You miraculously survive (no explanation as to how). You miraculously get off Alcatraz ( no explanation as to how, or why you were there in the first place). And, you are determined to get back your $93,000. All of this happens in the first five minutes. The rest of the movie is about how you get back your $93,000. 

If you think you have seen this movie before, you have. This is the granddaddy of the relentless lone survivor action movie.  In Point Blank, the lead character is Walker, played by Lee Marvin, a movie veteran of everything grizzled and hard boiled.  One of the most recent and direct inheritors of Walker's mantle is John Wick. But there are others. The Beekeeper, the Equalizer, director Matt Reeves' “The Batman,” Dalton in “Road House,” Daniel Craig's Bond in “Casino Royale,” and any number of Clint Eastwood lone rider cowboy characters (some predating this movie). “Point Blank” paved the way for several late 1960s and early 1970s violent crime films and road movies.  Some films that come to mind are “Bullitt,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” “The Wild Bunch,” “Straw Dogs,” and “Dirty Harry.”

“Point Blank” is based on “The Hunter,” a novel by Donald E. Westlake, who used the non de plume Richard Stark. The protagonist of that novel, named Parker in the novel, went on to be the central figure of 23 more novels. 

What makes this movie so disconcerting and riveting is the complete lack of exposition. We don't know where these people come from. We don't know what "the organization" ( the designated bad guys) are plotting. We don't know how any of these people are really connected. Irrespective of the inherent violence portrayed in this movie, one might say that the movie exhibits a kind of Zen quality - asking too many questions isn't going to help much; you just have to go with the flow. We are drawn, like flies to a flame, to Walker's relentless and clever machinations to get his money back, and he wants it to the penny, not a cent more.

Marvin specialized in roles that required that he turn on a dime from taciturn presence to violent instigator. Think of his turn as Stone, the mob lieutenant in “The Big Heat" who throws a pot of scalding hot coffee into Gloria Grahame's face. Marvin came to this movie just after finishing his starring role as Maj. Reisman in “The Dirty Dozen.” 

In addition to Marvin, this movie boasts several actors who eventually came to prominence, including Angie Dickinson of “Dressed to Kill” fame and Carroll O'Connor, a TV icon as Archie Bunker. James Sikking (the “Point Blank” gunman) played Lt. Howard Hunter in “Hill Street Blues.” Keenan Wynn, the son of comedian Ed Wynn ( of “Mary Poppins Fame”) acted in a vast array of movies and television shows from the 1930s through the 1980s. John Vernon went on to play in a number of Eastwood vehicles including “Dirty Harry” and “The Outlaw Josey Wales” and then went on to immortality as Dean Wormer in “Animal House.” Lloyd Bochne was another perennial TV presence. His son, actor Hart Bochner played the unfortunate business executive Ellis who was killed (point blank) by Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber in “Die Hard.”

“Point Blank” was John Boorman's second big screen directorial project. He went on to direct such notable films as “Deliverance,” “Excalibur” and “Hope and Glory.” His first big screen venture was "Catch Me If You Can" starring the Dave Clark Five, which this reviewer saw on the big screen on a double bill with the Beatles' Help! In August of 1965.