Point Blank: More Zen than Existential

                                                          Lee Marvin: King of the dead-eye stare

It’s kind of a you-stole-my-money revenge flick. But then… there are deep, dark currents.


Lee Marvin’s performance in Point Blank (1967) offers a harsh study of a brutality rarely seen in crime drama. No clever lines. No pumped-up muscles. No good looks. Few admirable traits. Just a stripped-down, focussed characterization of an urban hunter.

Where the face doesn’t match the action

As ex-con Walker, Lee Marvin doesn’t care if the audience likes him. He gives us a man driven by a self-engrossed sense of justice, bolstered by undying revenge, implementing violence more for expedience than pleasure.

Angie Dickinson: Not to be messed with

The film has achieved cult status for a few reasons. At the top of the list is the aforementioned Marvin as Walker (his first name is never mentioned); next is likely femme fatale Angie Dickinson’s unstinting slap-down of Marvin. There’s the existential nihilism that pervades the plot. It’s a world without love, loyalty, honor or law. It’s often hard to discern someone’s motivation. They just do. They just exist.

Underlying the narrative is an odd disconnect: periodically, the editing encourages a dreamlike quality, as if Walker is only experiencing a nightmare of gargantuan proportions. It adds to noir ambiance, where there are evolving shadows cast on everything. Director John Boorman is skilled at tilting the glass darkly.

“Up against the wall zen master!”

As the film ends, it’s not clear if Walker will claim his prize – if he was actually ever interested in doing so. Perhaps it’s more zen than  existential.

And Lee Marvin – few actors can do so much with silence, with a dead-eye gaze (no Clint Eastwood squinting for him)…just a suggestion of numbness that comes from living hard without any reason why.

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