Point Blank was introduced by its presenter at the AFI Silver as “the most pretentious good film ever made.” The “good” discussion follows, but there is no doubt John Boorman’s tough noir picture is arty, almost to the point of distraction.
The story is simple: Walker (Lee Marvin) and his pal Reese (John Vernon, Dean Wormer from Animal House, in his film debut) make a score, Reese double-crosses Walker, takes his lady and his dough and leaves him for dead. Walker returns and with the help of his sister-in-law Chris (Angie Dickinson) works his way up the criminal syndicate that protects Reese to get his money.
This is a cold film. The characters are hollow, and Marvin is catatonic. The story is near non-existent and Boorman relies on showy and repetitive flashbacks that suggest portent and meaning but do not deliver. Boorman’s prior film, Having a Wild Weekend, was a romp in the mode of Help, featuring the Dave Clark Five, so his high-mindedness may have been itching to get out.
On the plus side of the ledger, the color and texture of the film are vivid, Boorman’s depiction of violence is jarring (in particular, a vicious brawl in a cacophonous soul club), many of Point Blank’s images are stunningly iconic, and the fractured timeline clearly influenced Quentin Tarantino, among others.
The virtues of Point Blank are more identifiable in its legacy than in the viewing. Except for the incomparable Dickinson.