John Boorman opens Point Black with a piercing bullet, the ripples of which would affect not just Walker (Lee Marvin) but the course of the action genre. As he finds himself double-crossed by both his wife and his best friend, Walker walks a horridly straightforward line, caring not for the consequences, only for revenge. It is the epitome of the single-minded action thriller, and it is what makes them so compelling. An anti-hero or borderline protagonist is given a simple goal of avenging themself or their loved one, and they will stop at nothing to do so. Drive and determination are the key to making these pictures work, and the man or woman at the helm of such a piece is just as integral. Marvin, providing some of his best work, makes sure Point Blank is on point.
He is brooding and morally strained. A simple robbery that leads to two murders tears him apart, as does the betrayal of his wife and his friend. He is not a cold-blooded killer, in fact, little is really known of his life before the crime, but director John Boorman goes to great lengths in making Walker an interesting and engaging character. As Marvin threatens, shoots and punches his way through a cluster of seedy characters, Point Blank relies more and more on his elusive nature. He appears, gathers the information he needs, and leaves a bloody trail of where he is setting off to next. Much of the appeal is seeing how he gets there, for we already know his destination. He is a man wanting to avenge himself, for he was left for dead on a prison island. The shadowy iron bars he awakens to are a metaphorical prison, as he has not yet been caught. He is the free man that should not be free, and it seems he has been afflicted by the thought that this day is his last.
To live the day as his last seems to be the goal, then. He and Boorman work well together, taking Walker through the streets as his singular goal takes pertinence over anything he could hope to distract himself with. This singularity brings consistency to the tone of the story, which can relay its notes of revenge with scenes of violence and flashbacks to a time before discomfort. Walker storms through bars, coaxing information out of the trickling, loose connections these people have. From car dealership to dive bar, he uses few words and sudden violence to get what he needs from who he wants. That, in effect, is the great draw of Point Blank, a film that relies on steady action pacing and thriller elements. Old, reliable tropes of filmmaking technique crash headfirst into the pressures of modern filmmaking and what the future had to offer.
Its special effects have aged exceptionally dreadfully, but credit to Boorman and company for at least attempting these larger points of action. Rather than shy away from the risky opportunities, Point Blank is more than capable and even happy to take on scenes, characters and moments that will, eventually, turn stale. For its time, it is thrilling and chilling, but contemporary eyes are not kind to the green screens of decades gone by. It does not detract from the man with a mission, though, Walker is the same stoic, straight-faced fiend he is from start to finish. We are shown why he is now like this, what his reasons are, and how he is going to avenge himself, and that is where Point Blank succeeds so efficiently in both entertainment and prose.