Monday, November 23, 2015

Lee Marvin: Still Always Drunk And Violent

I felt sure I'd seen Point Blank at some point, but perhaps I've just seen people talking about it. It's based on the Richard Stark story The Hunter, like that Mel Gibson movie Payback, except this one stars Lee Marvin. So that's an upgrade right there at the start.

The broad outline of the plot is largely the same. Marvin's character (called Walker, rather than Porter in Gibson's version or Parker in Stark's novels) helps his friend Reese (John Vernon) steal a money pickup from a mob, then is betrayed by that friend who needs all the money to pay off a debt he owes to a different criminal organization he's a part of. Walker doesn't die, and is approached by a man (played by Keenan Wynn) who wants the Organization torn down, and since Walker would likely have to do that to get his share of the dough and his revenge, they agree to work together. Although in practice Wynn provides addresses and then stays out of the way.

It was interesting, the differences between this and Payback. In the latter film, Porter contends that if you go high enough up, eventually there's always one man in charge, and he ultimately runs up against Kris Krstofferson. Here, if there is one boss, they never make themselves known. Instead, there seems to be a trio of co-bosses, each handling different aspects of the organization. Here, there's no big denouement where all the bad guys end up dead. Which would have been tricky, since there aren't any good guys.

Walker's certainly no winner. He occasionally turns on the charm, but only briefly. He has no compunction about using anyone who is willing to help him to the limits of their patience, and beyond. That's usually where the charm comes in, mostly with Angie Dickinson playing his former sister-in-law, leading her on to help him just a little more in his vague quest. I suppose the fact he charms her rather than just hitting her like he does everyone else is the best indication he cares for her. Even so, it's immensely satisfying when she cracks him over the head with a pool cue.

I will say it was hard to buy this bunch as much of a criminal organization. Everyone we see is a complete moron, right up to the guys at the top, like Brewster and Carter. The goons are hapless, and they were a lousy enough bunch to let Reese join in the first place, then let him back in because he came up with the money (rather than just taking it and killing him), and then aren't smart enough to hang the guy out to dry when Walker shows up and starts causing problems. I suppose there was probably some idea that it was bad business to let a guy show up and kill one of your own, but I think there'd also be value in sending a message to others in your organization not to let your personal messes interfere with operations.

As it is, none of them seem to grasp the kind of person they're dealing with in Walker, maybe because even he isn't sure what's driving him on. He gets revenge, but that's not enough. He wants his money, but he also just seems angry in general. He hurts people who aren't his enemies, and maybe he regrets it after, but it doesn't stop him from doing it again. He's kind of stuck in a cycle of being bitter and wary of everyone, which is probably the right attitude for dealing with a bunch of crooks, but not so much for everyone else. So I'm not sure whether I feel bad for Walker or not. I'm not sure I'm supposed to. He seems haunted by some of the things that happens, there's times I think he's having traumatic flashbacks, but he's still a cold, person, who only seems to care after the fact, so it's kind of hard to give a damn about him.

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