I am a fan of film noir. As a genre, film noir has all the elements that makes movies cool and interesting to watch and the List has plenty of examples. By 1967 film noir as a genre is passé and instead film noir is something you reference to. We already had a very successful example in “Le Samourai” and “Point Blank” is another such neo-noir.
Given my unabashed love for the genre I am surprised to find that I did not love “Point Blank”.
My main concern, I believe, is that “Point Blank” is so concerned with being “neo” that the format detracts from the movie. Especially the first fifteen minutes of the movie have such a messed-up chronology that I had to look up a plot summary to find out what is actually happening. Then we have frequent jumps between an inner vision, what is going on in Walker’s (Lee Marvin) head, and external vision, our view. While probably intended to help us understanding his thinking, they often make things very confusing. Still confusion is part of the game in a film noir so I guess this is just a different take on it, confusing the viewer with sudden jumps.
When we then get down to the actual story it is actually very simple. Walker joined his friend Reese (John Vernon) and wife, Lynne (Sharon Acker) on an ambush on the courier for a crime syndicate because Reese needed the money. Only, Reese and Lynne double crossed him, took the money and left him for dead. Walker, however, was not dead and now he wants his money.
One by one Walker searches out members of a crime syndicate hierarchy. He finds Lynne who kills herself, he kills Reese, then his superior and so on, all to get his money. Each step reveals the next in a bloody treasure hunt. In this quest he gets some assistance from Lynne’s sister, Chris (Angie Dickinson) who is somehow also involved.
Walker’s motives, revenge and his money, seem too simple. Is that really it? His background is completely non-existent, was he criminal before the ambush? How did he become an elite gangster, outsmarting an entire crime syndicate? And the reveal in the end, what can we really use that for? It seems to indicate that Walker was used, but is that really it. Not to mention the role Chris has in the plot. Frankly, her only purpose is to be an unnecessary love interest for Walker. Normally women have a pivotal role in film noir, but here Chris is just filler.
It is not to say that this was a crap movie. Yes, it is pretentious, but there are also very advanced elements that point forward. The griminess of the underworld is very seventies and the realism in many of the takes has European New Wave written all over it. The level of brutality in the action is also very… adult.
Then of course it is impossible to hate a movie with Lee Marvin. He does bring some oomph to any movie.
If you are looking for a neo noir, pick “Le Samourai” first. Need more, sure, add some “Point Blank.