With a rugged but never hulking torso, a shock of white hair, and a slablike face marked by a mashed nose and piercing eyes, Lee Marvin was a startling, wired big-screen presence. He tears through John Boorman's audacious 1967 gangster film, Point Blank (re-released in a new print), with the force and sheen of a silver bullet. Playing a character named Walker, he has a sure-footed, leopardlike walk that resembles a stripped-down, tuned-up version of John Wayne's. All Walker wants is to get paid for a heist that ended with his wife and best friend betraying him and leaving him for dead. The whole movie is made up of Walker striding through inhuman '60s settings (a garish nightclub, gleaming corporate offices) and confronting Organization bigwigs who never carry cash. He's a Hemingway hero tossed into a credit-card universe.
Boorman's virtuoso modernist style -- full of flash and fragmentation -- is an ideal counterpoint to Marvin's inspired simplicity. The movie has classic, jolting scenes, like Walker shooting a telephone. Angie Dickinson plays Walker's sister-in-law, who helps him get to John Vernon, his traitorous friend. There's a unique mixture of passive sadism and slapstick in the way Marvin just stands there and allows Dickinson to pound herself against his rocklike frame. She ends up slapping herself silly. Sometimes, Walker's violence is all business; sometimes, though, it's personal. As Boorman said after Marvin's death in 1987, "When he fought in World War II, when he was 17, he was brutalized. ... He was war-wounded. He had this compulsion toward violence, but he also had, at the same time, a horror of war and violence. This tremendous conflict is what I was exploring in Point Blank."
Point Blank screens at 6, 8, and 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Nov. 21 & 22, at the Roxie, 16th & Valencia. Tickets are $3-6; call 863-1087.
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