Sunday, 23 August 2009

Point Blank

Such close proximity to a read (however abridged) of Richard Stark's originator fiction recasts Point Blank as something of a critique on romanticised villainy. Stark's hero Parker is largely defined by his ruthless lethality, so potent and honed that even the barest contact can prove fatal for a civilian. In contrast Lee Marvin's Walker, although just as brutally determined, hounds his quarry to fearfully seek auto-destruction. Rather than an explicit murderer, Walker is a nagging guilt figure, clouding the minds of his betrayers. He was a better, simpler, man than they. A pleasant surprise then to discover that John Boorman's elliptical fever dream is made greater by source comparison rather than weaker, functioning as a flip-side companion piece to Stark's fantasy figure.

In Point Blank, however capably Walker asserts, there's always a nagging sense that he's an errand boy to a higher, more duplicitous entity. Manning the frame fringe is a grim accomplice, indistinct enough to be mistaken for a figment of Walker's fractured psyche - an effect enhanced by the relentless unreal that pervades the film. Walker, here a beanpole spectre, haunts the underworld. An omen of ill intent, signifying and expediting calamity, but very rarely physically actualising it. Whereas Stark's hero is the lone architect of such downfall, Walker is an unconscious pawn in the thrall of an answer-man, ticking off his gripes. Point Blank is frequently contextualised as a shut-down fantasy. That reading submits that Walker never leaves Alcatraz Island. Instead, dying alone in a cell, he weaves a revenge fiction to ease his passing. This accounts for his indirect impact, and a reluctance to drag his thoughts away from where he fell. Such a framing device also makes sense of Walker's obedience. Who else but death could manipulate such a man? Naturally, come the conclusion, having been made conscious of his role, Walker resists. Rather than seize his prize and disappear into the machine, Walker flees. A victory of individuality.


Malath said...

love this film

Mark said...

Do pop down to your local library and request the novel - Westlake is the Hemingway of crime.

Reds said...

Done and done.