Point Blank Review

The Movie

Point Blank, John Boorman’s lyrical fever-dream of betrayal and revenge, has finally been released on Blu-ray. Based on Richard Stark’s novel The Hunter, the 1967 film is as mesmerising and elegiac as ever, as Lee Marvin’s Walker returns from the dead to decimate a West Coast crime syndicate. His target is Reese, his former friend who shot him in the back on Alcatraz Island for a measly $93,000, now living the highlife as part of the Organisation, played with slimy desperation by John Vernon. Angie Dickinson provides some much needed glamour as Chris, Walker’s sister-in-law, her beauty a counterpoint to the granite-hewn visage of Marvin or the pock-marked face of Vernon.

The centrepiece of the movie is of course Walker himself, an avenging angel realised through Lee Marvin’s ice-cold performance. He’s both an unstoppable force and an immovable object, the latter point exemplified when Chris slaps, pushes and punches Walker until she collapses to the floor, exhausted, while Walker remains unmoved. Boorman’s direction is at turns deft and muscular, employing cuts that turn night to day around Walker in a split second, while he doesn’t shy away from the brutal snatches of violence that punctuate the story. The movie ends in typically enigmatic fashion, wrapping up one of the great thrillers of the ’60s.

The Blu-ray

This region-free American disc presents the movie in its original aspect ratio with lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound. The 2.40 widescreen image is extremely clean and is very stable, with a decent amount of fine detail (I wouldn’t expect a great deal more from a 47-year-old anamorphic show) and solid blacks. There’s a layer of grain which looks a bit chunky, like it’s not being resolved as finely as it could be, yet that’s no surprise because Warners’ Blu-rays have always had a slightly filtered look to me, and the single-layer AVC encode doesn’t help matters. The colour is nice though, it hasn’t been retooled to the modern sun-burned palette and skin tones have a healthy pink flush.

The mono audio is functional, dialogue can sound a little constrained but Walker’s ominous footsteps have a nicely percussive snap to them, and it's free from hiss and crackles. There's no surround sound option, but I'd rather have the original audio track in its purest form possible rather than suffer some atrocious 5.1 remix, so this suits me fine. Extras (ported over from the DVD) are limited to a pair of vintage featurettes (The Rock part 1 and 2), the trailer and an audio commentary by John Boorman and Steven Soderbergh.

Overall, it’s another competent catalogue upgrade from Warners, but the film is essential for any self-respecting fan of American crime classics.

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