‘Point Blank’ an uneven entry in Boorman’s portfolio

If you're going to steal Lee Marvin's money and leave him for dead, you better make damn sure you finish the job.

If you’re going to steal Lee Marvin’s money and leave him for dead, you better make damn sure you finish the job.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think director John Boorman’s overrated.

Deliverance is OK, but people only really remember it for the one intense scene in the woods that made Ned Beatty famous. The problem is that intense scene happens early, and the rest of the movie – a trip through the back country in the south while living in fear of being killed by rednecks – fails to match that intensity, until it just sort of sputters to an end. The Tailor of Panama is solid, but its success really hinges more on the quality performances of stars Geoffrey Rush, Pierce Brosnan and Jamie Lee Curtis and John Le Carre’s story than it does Boorman’s direction. Excalibur has its moments, but it now feels dated, not so much because of its Arthurian storyline than the cheesy 1980s-ness that overwhelms the production. And Zardoz … sweet Jesus, I don’t have the time or the inclination to tear into the hot mess. I hope Sir Sean Connery collected a big, fat check for that, because otherwise he was wasting his time.

Point Blank is another example of Boorman coming up short. The film stars Lee Marvin as Walker, a guy who partners with his girlfriend and a pal to steal some illegal funds, then is double-crossed, shot and left for dead. But Walker doesn’t die. And he wants his $60,000. And he doesn’t much care which lowlife gives it to him, either.

Marvin is terrific, all stony rage and clear-headed vengeance. Angie Dickinson is gorgeous and grave as Chris, the sister of Walker’s now-dead ex. Carroll O’Conner does a nice supporting turn as one of the criminals Walker confronts in an attempt to get his cash. There are also a lot of amazing, late-1960s settings and cars that really give the film a unique look.

But it’s not a great film by any means. In this case, the script doesn’t help Boorman much. It’s old-school, low-brow sexist, in one case putting Chris in the uncomfortable position of getting naked with a crime boss and trying to delay any further advances until Walker shows up to save her just before penetration can occur. And there is one sequence where Walker and Chris wait at the home of a criminal for him to return that is just ridiculous, making no sense whatsoever. Behind the camera, Boorman relies on a series of repetitive, quick-cut flashbacks throughout. He seems to be attempting to note the fatalism of it all, that this violence is a cycle which will only lead to more violence. Or maybe history repeats itself. Or karma something. None of which are bad ideas in and of themselves, but it’s vague and clumsy in a way that undercuts Point Blank as a total package.

Maybe I’m too harsh, but sometimes in Hollywood a reputation is earned at one point and continues to exist without being challenged, despite evidence that is contrary to said reputation. I think Boorman looks like someone who falls under that heading.

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