Saturday, November 28, 2015

Point Blank!

Point Blank is the 1967 movie adaptation of Richard Stark's The Hunter, the first of the "Parker" novels by "Stark" (whose real name was Donald Westlake). I've never read the novel, but it's on the list.

The movie is strange and compelling experience. The plot is dead simple, a ruthless hold-up man Walker (Lee Marvin) is betrayed by his wife Lynn (Sharon Acker) and his friend Mal Reese (John Vernon) who leave him for dead at the recently abandoned Alacatraz island. He finds a man named Yost (Keenan Wynn) who clues him into the doings of "The Corporation" who Reese works for and our "hero" then begins to intimidate, beat, and shoot his way to fulfilling his revenge and getting his cut of the booty. Along the way he meets, beds, and uses Lynn's sister Chris (Angie Dickinson), who seems attracted and repelled by him at the same time.

Lee Marvin's portrayal of Walker is downright weird, and the director's decision to have all manner of flash-backs and such intercede in the timeline of the story makes many imagine this is all a weird dream or hallucination in which Walker is fantasizing about his desire for vengeance after being shot down at Alacatraz.  Another theory suggests Walker is death incarnate come to claim those who live in a world of corruption and violence. I'm not certain. I do know the story holds your attention because Walker' search is relentless as is the movie.

The movie was made again as Payback in the 90's with Mel Gibson in the lead role. No attempt is made to give this one a surreal feel, but the grim nature of Porter (Gibson's character) as he seeks his money and his vengeance is palpable. This one has a lot of weird touches such as an introduction of a criminal Tong society,  but the weirdness is offset by some great actors in small parts like James Coburn, William Devane, and David Paymer. The ending is "happy" which does undermine the theme a bit, but getting there is can be stylish. I like what Gibson did with the role.

Most recently I've seen Parker which for the first time uses Westlake's character's real name, but this adapts a different novel in the series, though the story arc feels very similar to the others I've mentioned. Jason Statham is his usual cool self in the lead, but Jennifer Lopez while pretty as always seems a bit outclassed in this one. There's lots and lots of violence, but rarely do I get a true noir feel to the proceedings. Likely this is because of the sunny Florida setting. I wanted to like this story, but it lost me in several places as the characters seem often to do what is necessary to make the story work and not what people might actually do in a given circumstance.

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