Comfortable and Furious

Point Blank

Lee Marvin was never one for conversation or debate, and when it came to women, he could hardly be bothered to exchange names, let alone pleasantries. Dames entered Lee’s world to be used, tricked, flattered, and, if need be (and such occasions came more often than not), thrown on the bed, clothing ripped, and violated without hesitation or remorse. Her pleasure was irrelevant, obviously, and if she had anything to say in the matter, she’d just as likely have her penetration followed by a slug to the gut.

Interestingly, Marvin appeared tough and weathered from the very first time we saw him, as if he burst on the scene with confidence and callous disregard for others usually reserved for hardened veterans. We never doubted that he could — and would — kill without conscience, and his defiance and unyielding gait usually took him from the bedroom to the shooting gallery, all in service of his unparalleled organ. One could fuck with Lee Marvin, but as death itself could barely contain him, his was a path best left uncrossed. He’s so tough, in fact, that he’s interred next to Joe Louis in Arlington. All man, all Marine, and the owner of a Purple Heart, he battered Hollywood with a raw manhood all his own.

I speak to Mr. Marvin’s power out of reverence and awe, but also to prepare you for its release in 1967’s Point Blank, a tight, relentless little film from director John Boorman that, at bottom, is little more than a betrayed Marvin (as Walker) hunting down the SOBs who stole his money and left him for dead. But given that it’s Lee Fucking Marvin we’re talking about here, that’s more than enough story on which to hang his outbursts and savagery. Take the best scene in the film — brief as it might be — where Chris (Angie Dickinson), offended by a sly come-on, attacks Walker with a two-fisted rage. She slaps him in the face, pounds his chest, belts him about the torso with her purse, and so frantically abuses him that she collapses in an exhausted heap.

Outrageously — brilliantly, even — he remains statue-like and utterly silent, with only the slight quiver of his cheek to remind us that he’s alert. After her fall to the floor, he adjusts his jacket, turns to the couch, and sits down for a round of television. Soon after, she’s wandering about the house sulking like a child, turning on assorted appliances, and blasting music. He follows, and is smacked in the head by a pool cue for his trouble. While he’s on the floor, she straddles him and just as sharply, we cut to their naked forms in the bedroom. She wants him dead, but has to see what kind of cocksman he is first. It’s so delightfully hateful and misogynistic, that it’s unmistakably Marvin.

Walker’s determined to get his $93,000, and he guns down several scoundrels during his quest, none of whom mean that much to us. Again, this is not a complicated, subtext-laden head-scratcher, but a mood piece concerning one man’s fanatical obsession. Walker tosses a naked man off a high rise, kicks ass like a master of kung fu in a seedy nightclub, and bursts into a bedroom, firing his piece like a mad dog possessed, without even pausing to see who might be sleeping there. He coldly places his wedding ring on his dead wife’s finger, not seeming to care that she’s just committed suicide by ingesting a bottle of pills (after all, she was instrumental in the initial betrayal). And when he has a car salesman on a test drive, he slams the vehicle repeatedly into a pole in order to get information.

The deafening echo of footsteps on the soundtrack during the trip to his wife’s house could just as easily be the inner workings of Walker’s mind, as he’ll block out the world just long enough to get what’s coming to him. Focused, hardened, and ultimately a survivor (one should know better than leave this man for dead), Walker is a curious sort of anti-hero; we don’t really know him at all, but we’re with him every step of the way.