'Point Blank' DVD Review **** 071505

The Work = ****
'Point Blank' is a great crime drama with a strong performance from Lee Marvin. The film is directed by John Boorman and is one of his early films. Boorman has directed some of my favorite movies. His films, 'Point Blank', 'Deliverance', 'Excalibur', 'The General', and 'The Tailor of Panama' are all some of my favorite flics’.

'Point Blank' is one of a handful of films based on a novel by Richard Stark (the pen name of Donald E. Westlake.) It is based on the novel 'The Hunter' which is a fun read if you get the chance. More recently a movie called 'Payback', starring Mel Gibson was based on the same novel. In either case the films are very different from the novel.

That is not a strike against them by any means and with 'Point Blank', despite the differences, I must say the film has a similar tone to the novel. With 'Payback' Gibson produced it and after the initial version tested poorly he felt it made his character look too dark so he hade a significant portion re-shot. 'Payback’s writer / director Brian Helgeland didn’t cotton to the changes and another director was brought in.

I have read summaries and reviews of the original version of 'Payback' and they make it sound like it was a darker film that might have been closer to the book and to 'Point Blank'. I bring that up because back in the 60s when ' Point Blank' was being made, Marvin was the big star and he chose to give Boorman all the creative control the young filmmaker wanted. Marvin wasn’t scared of playing a character who was a bad guy and he wasn’t scared of letting a young director make a violent and unorthodox film.

'Point Blank' follows Walker (Marvin) as he fights his way through the mob trying to get the money that is owed him. He has a grim determination and is unfazed when he kills the people who could pay him the money. (Only after they refuse to cough up the dough or accidentally get bumped off.) He simply moves up the ladder and goes to the victim’s bosses for the funds. He is so good as it turns that the mob figures start to have some skepticism about him only wanting his money.

Walker only wants his $93,000 though and will take nothing else even if it means killing everyone in the criminal organization. Marvin gives one of his best performances as Walker. He plays him like someone who only moves and speaks when he has to. He seemingly has no fear and seems to feel no pain.

Many times his vicious actions brought a smile to my face as he plowed through one opponent after another. It is something about his statue like movements and calculated actions that have a darkly comical tone. I guess part of what seemed so clever to me was his inaction as much as his action. Walker often freezes and watches his opponents kill each other, only moving in when the dust has settled.

Marvin isn’t the only winner in the cast: Angie Dickinson, Carroll O’Connor, and John Vernon are some of the players that bring to life the characters in 'Point Blank'. Many of the actors are good in their own right but when they are opposite Marvin as Walk they come to life. Dickinson, in particular seems to have a certain knack for going at Marvin verbally and physically. The cast helps to make this film rise above what could have been a mediocre crime drama.

The look of the film is wonderful. With a beautiful, wide aspect ratio and slightly distorted colors, cinematographer Phillip H. Lathrop and director Boorman create great shots throughout California (often shooting on location.) The pair make great use of the frame and film some surprisingly brutal violence. I really enjoyed 'Point Blank' and find it an easy one to recommend for fans of this type of film.

DVD = ****

The Look
'Point Blank' gets a great transfer. This film looks good! I wish all older films got this kind of transfer. Some shots showed a bit of aging but I doubt there is anything that could have been done about that. The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen in the aspect ratio of 2.38:1.

The Sound
The soundtrack is presented in a mono track that sounded quite good. The effects and music sounded great and I was always able to understand the dialogue. This seems to be quite a good mix. There was also a French mono track on the DVD. In addition the DVD has subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.

The Bonus
Boorman directed a documentary about Marvin in 1998 entitled 'Lee Marvin: A Personal Portrait by John Boorman' that should have been included here. I am not faulting the DVD for not having it but it would have gone so well with the rest of the features on the disk. There are two brief vintage featurettes focusing on the filming that was done at Alcatraz during the production of 'Point Blank'. The DVD also has a theatrical trailer for the film.

Lastly the DVD has a commentary by Boorman and filmmaker Steven Soderbergh. Soderbergh acts as the host fielding questions and letting Boorman jump in with his thoughts on different aspects of the film. This is a great commentary track and the two seem to get along quite well. Soderbergh admits that he has stolen quite a bit from the film. They talk about the making of the film, those involved and even a bit of background Marvin. Boorman even tools on the Gibson film. He also talks about Marvin not thinking Vernon was tough enough and hitting him in the stomach during rehearsals. He hit Vernon so hard that the poor guy started crying. This commentary makes the disk.

All Together = ****
So, I clearly loved this film. It is strange, it reminds me a bit of 'Get Carter' (the original.) When I saw that film the first time I thought it was ok but when I watched it a second time I loved it. I had a similar experience when I saw this film the first time several years ago. I don’t know if I was too young or had weird expectations but I am not sure I even saw the whole thing. Watching the film now, I thought it was great. Make this one a double bill with 'Get Carter' and get a dose of Marvin and a dose of Michael Caine. Reccomended.


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