Posted in: Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Film music, Film Reviews

Blu-ray: ‘Point Blank’

When documentary filmmaker John Boorman made the leap to feature filmmaking with Catch Us If You Can (aka Having a Wild Weekend, 1965), a low-budget rock-n-roll vehicle for the Dave Clark Five, he transformed the quickie into a surprisingly biting satire of popular culture set to a bouncy soundtrack, displaying a remarkable sophistication and creativity unexpected from such a project. It was enough to land him his first American film, Point Blank (Warner) where he revealed an even greater ambition and talent.

Based on the novel The Hunter by Richard Stark (a pen name for Donald Westlake), Point Blank shuffles the lean, straight-forward story of a gunman named Walker (Lee Marvin), who is double crossed by his partner in crime and returns (seemingly from the dead) for revenge, into a surreal, abstracted crime drama. The plot is faithful to original novel, a hard-boiled piece of crime fiction reimagined for the underworld culture of the sixties, but Boorman and Marvin, who requested the young director and supported his unconventional vision for the film, refract it through a modern lens. Walker’s odyssey from Alcatraz in San Francisco to the underworld of Los Angeles is splintered with short, sharp shards of memory that cut through his story, as if reflecting Walker’s attempts to put the pieces of cause and effect together in his mind.

Boorman views L.A. through an alienated lens and edits it more like a European art film than an American crime thriller, but fills it with offbeat, ultra-stylized scenes of violence.

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Posted in: Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, DVD, Film Reviews

DVD/Blu-ray: ‘Point Blank’

The French crime thriller Point Blank(Magnolia), not to be confused with John Boorman’s 1967 post-noir masterpiece, opens in full sprint and pretty much stays in that adrenaline-pumping state. Sure, we get a peaceful interlude with nursing student Samuel (Gilles Lellouche) and his pregnant wife (Elena Anaya of The Skin I Live In) to show just what’s at stake before his life is yanked from under him: his wife (under orders for bedrest) is kidnapped to force him to slip a wounded criminal (Roschdy Zem) from the hospital before the police come to question him… or kill him, as it turns out. Samuel ends up in the middle of a murderous conspiracy — damned if he’s caught by the good cops, dead if the corrupt cops get him first — and his only hope to get him and his wife out alive is to team up with Zem’s Hugo, a safecracker framed for murder by the same killer cops. He’s the kind of super-talented crook with a moral streak that crime movies love so much and Zem is an actor who can make that cliché work.

The script doesn’t always hold up to the light of day, but director and co-screenwriter Fred Cavaye drives the film with so much furious, pulse-pounding momentum, powered by an overwhelming sense of panic and paranoia, that you don’t have much time to worry about it. And at under 85 minutes (including end credits) the film doesn’t get tangled up in unnecessary side stories or blind alleys. (I can just imagine an American remake – and surely someone is trying to make that happen, as they did with his earlier Anything for Her, which became The Next Three Days – dragging it out in further twists and turns.) If the premise is familiar (the nice-guy innocent forced to become ruthless lawbreaker to survive) the execution and evocation of the gritty nocturnal Paris underworld makes is zing. In French with English subtitles. On DVD and Blu-ray, both with a behind-the-scenes featurette.

More reviews of foreign films on DVD and Blu-ray at Videodrone here.