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Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Film Buff: A Good Bad Guy

I'm sure many of you have seen the 1999 movie Payback starring Mel Gibson. It's a favorite of mine. It's based upon the novel The Hunter by Richard Stark (Donald E. Westlake), and it's not the first film adaptation of that novel.
Since tomorrow is Lee Marvin's birthday, it seems appropriate to share with you one of my favorite lesser-known films, and one that Marvin had an active hand in bringing to film. Marvin selected John Boorman to direct Point Blank (1967), the first adaptation of the Stark novel with Marvin himself as the man known only as Carter. (In the book, the character is called "Parker." In the Mel Gibson film he is "Porter."
Betrayed by his best friend and wife, shot and left for dead, Carter is the kind of man who - if you're going to double-cross him, you really want to double-check that he's actually dead. Carter fights his way back from the brink of death and then fights his way through the entire criminal syndicate called "The Organization."
It's a striking film, which you expect from John Boorman, and it's a compelling story. One of the taglines from the later Payback was "Get ready to root for the bad guy," and that's fitting in this version as well. Carter isn't a nice guy, but - in the seedy underworld of San Francisco - he's the guy we want to see win.
Also starring the ever under-appreciated John Vernon (in his first major role), Angie Dickinson, Keenan Wynn, and Carroll O'Connor, Point Blank is a beautifully ugly film, and it set the stage for the gritty crime dramas of the 1970s and beyond. (Steven Soderbergh is a big fan of this film, too.)

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