Movie Critique – Point Blank

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation: A box office failure, but leaves the viewers with a good thriller no doubt engaging with a new way of presenting a simple heist and revenge tale. Worth one watch!

Point Blank is a 1967 American crime drama film starring Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Sharon Acker and John Vernon. Adapted from the 1963 crime noir pulp novel The Hunter by Donald E. Westlake, the film was directed by John Boorman.

After a heist, Walker (portrayed by Lee Marvin) is shot and left to die by his partner Mal Reese (portrayed by John Vernon), who then leaves with the money and Walker's wife, Lynne Walker (portrayed by Sharon Acker). However, Walker recovers. Now he sets on a path of revenge to take down his wife, his partner, and get his half of the heist that sums upto $93K.

Westlake was writing as Richard Stark then. His book was converted to screenplay for this film by Alexander Jacobs, David Newhouse and Rafe Newhouse. The original script from the novel had been considerably rearranged per se when it finally became the film, including changing the lead characters name from Parker to Walker. 

This was the first film to be shot at Alcatraz, infamous prison which was shut down 4 years prior to the release of this movie. The filming came with it's own share of mishaps and adventures for the cast. While the heroines Angie Dickinson and Sharon Acker got an opportunity to pose for Life magazine with Alcatraz as backdrop, Acker was hurt accidentally by blanks early in the film. You can see it at around 4 minutes into the movie the scene were Acker is accidentally shot by Vernon.

Marvin definitely had given a phenomenal performance that would remind the viewers closely of his Major John Reisman in the film The Dirty Dozen, that also released in the same year as this movie. Several scenes had just Walker's footsteps as the sole sound in the background creating a chill atmosphere to the plot.

As for our heroines - Acker has a very short role and yet with some deep dialogues. And Dickinson looks the same as she was in the Perry Mason's episode, The Case of the One-Eyed Witness" which had released a good 9 years prior to this film. 

Both Sharon Acker (portrays as Lynn Walker) and John Vernon (portrays as Mal Reese) were credited as being "introduced" in the film. However, both have worked in British films for over ten years by then. Perhaps this is introduction to American audience. Surprisingly neither had British accent in here. 

The film was unusually structured with a timeline that is as haphazard as it could get. Walker's flashbacks are overlapped with his reality in so many places creating a confusion in the viewer's mind. It was confusing to figure out if Walker was in a dream land and the entire thing was his figment of imagination; or if he indeed recovered and took revenge. 

The title of the film appears twice in the movie - once at the very beginning, and second time right after Walker gets shot, some 5 minutes into the movie. The second time it is sub-titled with "co-stars" and lists out the remaining cast in the film. Lee Marvin's name appears before even the title of the movie comes up the first time. 

Despite a good story, it was a box office failure; but it now a cult classic. However watchin it from my couch I found it interesting, with some parts confusing, some parts boring and many parts intriguing. It is a thriller no doubt engaging with a new way of presenting a simple heist and revenge tale. Worth a watch before you watch the Mel Gibson's Payback. Enjoy!

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. Westlake's book The Hunter was also basis for 1999 film Payback starring Mel Gibson and directed by Brian Hedgeland. 

b. There is a 2010 film title Point Blank but doesn’t have the same story as this film. 

c. Might Good Times song written by Stu Gardener and sung by The Stu Gardner Trio, is shown being sung in the nightclub scene. It appears on the film's soundtrack album as well. 

d. Lloyd Bochner portrays the role of Frederick Carter. However I remember him for his roles in Murder, She Wrote TV Series that aired a good 20 years after this film. Oh he also is seen in Columbo's 1973 episode, The Most Dangerous Match, playing the role of Mazoor Beroski; and in the 1962 episode of Twilight Zone titled To Serve Man, as Michael Chambers.

e. While waiting for Brewster, Walker idly watches on TV Vincente Minnelli's "The Cobweb".

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. 23 minutes into the movie, Walker walks into an empty room and sits in a corner while going through another episode of flashbacks. He is seen wearing socks, yet in the background we can hear his shoes clicking on the floor. Was it error? Or did the director use that sound no matter whether he wore shoes or not, to give it more effect of chillness?

b. When Big John is sitting in the car that Walker is getting ready to test drive, a large studio light is reflected in the side window near the front passenger side.

c. In one scene where Reese is shown standing in front of a large plate glass window, you can see the reflection of a red camera light on the glass, right on the side of his nose.

d. Neither Walker nor Chris carry any change of clothes when they wait out at Brewster's mansion in the night. However, the following morning both have new set of clothes - Walker is seen in a Brown suit as opposed to Black from previous night while Chris is in a White dress with a red coat as opposed to Orange dress with no coat from previous night.


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