March 12, 2013
Point Blank (1967)
Grade: 47/100

Director: John Boorman
Stars: Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Keenan Wynn

What it's about. A semi-surreal crime drama. Lee Marvin partners with John Vernon to steal an organized crime money drop at the abandoned Alcatraz prison. Vernon, who for some reason is accompanied by Marvin's hottie wife Lynne, shoots Marvin and leaves him for dead at the prison. He then lives in relative luxury with Lynne (Sharon Acker) while Marvin apparently is hospitalized or imprisoned.

About a year later, Marvin has recovered and is a free man again. How this can be isn't explained. Marvin has a cynical backer, Keenan Wynn, intent on helping the humorless and determined Marvin get revenge on Vernon and reclaim his half of the money drop: 93K.

Marvin works his way up the executive chain of Vernon's crime ring. He begins with Lynne. He forgives her, but she can't forgive herself. Next is mildly eccentric car salesman Michael Strong, whom Marvin beats up until he reveals the location of Vernon's girlfriend, Angie Dickinson, who happens to be Lynne's sister.

Dickinson proves willing to do whatever Marvin wants, though she has to pout first. Dickinson agrees to meet Vernon in his penthouse fortress, to help create a diversion that will allow Marvin to get to Vernon. Which, inevitably, he does.

But Marvin still doesn't have his money. Encouraged by Wynn, he confronts Vernon's boss Lloyd Bochner for it. Bochner tries to double cross Marvin, with predictable results. But Marvin is still out his 93K, and must turn to the future Archie Bunker, Carroll O'Connor. The surprisingly unafraid O'Connor at least tries to help Marvin get his money back, which means returning to Alcatraz for the next drop. There, we learn what we have suspected all along, that the all-knowing Keenan Wynn is not a Federal agent but merely a businessman seeking to kill off his frenemie partners. And he has found the ideal assassin in Marvin.

How others will see it. The category of revenge crime drama is familiar and comfortable for many viewers. White-haired Lee Marvin is a bit old for the role, especially when his on-screen wife is comely Sharon Acker. He is a better match for Dickinson, who shares his surly demeanor.

Director Boorman was best known in 1967 for his one prior feature film, Having a Wild Weekend, a Dave Clark 5 version of A Hard Day's Night. Today, Boorman is famous for Deliverance (1972), though the King Arthur tale Excalibur (1981) also has a strong cult following.

Point Blank, an A-list MGM production, drew little critical attention at the time, but has a respectable 9K user votes at The user ratings are consistent among age demographics (at 7.4 out of 10) but there is a moderate gender gap. Women viewers may wonder why Lynne kills herself, why Dickinson agrees to sleep with Vernon, or why she knocks Marvin senseless with a pool cue.

How I felt about it. Point Blank is best regarded as a black comedy instead of the suspense thriller it is supposed to be. It is interesting that Marvin never actually kills anyone: three are shot by sniper James Sikking, and Vernon jumps to his death. Marvin does beat up three flunkies, and of course the car salesmen is assaulted by his own car. Marvin is a dangerous man, but he's not a murderer. He just wants his 93K.

There are a few curious moments. Michael Strong seems more interested in leering at Susan Holloway than in selling a car to Lee Marvin. A black nightclub singer who believes in audience participation is vaguely patterned after James Brown. Dickinson assaults Marvin with a pool stick, which in this movie is an invitation for foreplay.

But while Point Blank is undeniably watchable, undoubtedly due to its weirdness, Boorman simply isn't given enough to work with. The cast is undeniably interesting, but the plot is pedestrian and the script (based on a Donald E. Westlake novel) is mediocre.