Saturday, August 29, 2009

POINT BLANK and THE GENERAL: The Jack Sack Movie Review

There are two types of people in this world- those who consistently wait on lines and those who consistently cut them. I happen to like the cutters- they see through a lot of the nonsense caused by civilization.  Tonight's double-feature includes two of John Boorman's best movies featuring these "lone wolf" types.

The first is POINT BLANK (1967), starring Lee Marvin as Walker- a crook who was double-crossed by his pal and his wife and left for dead. Sound familiar? Mel Gibson's PAYBACK was based on the same source material- the novel "The Hunter" by Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald Westlake). Before getting to the movie in detail, just know that POINT BLANK makes PAYBACK look like an after school special.

Second is a much lesser-known Boorman film, THE GENERAL (1998) starring Brendon Gleeson as real life Irish crook Martin Cahill. Set in the early 1990s, THE GENERAL also reunited Boorman with his DELIVERANCE star Jon Voight, who many of you know as the irascible Jonas Hodges.

Boorman has made two films, nearly 30 years apart, which address characters with some form of societal dysfunction. They are intelligent, resourceful, charming, determined individuals who could each be successful, legitimate types. But there's something about being too smart- about seeing through the facade of society and knowing that being a crook is not the exclusive domain of burglars and pick-pockets. These are men who view the social contract as a joke, and they refuse to honor such a dishonorable deal. I like these guys probably too much.

In POINT BLANK, Walker is a professional, independent criminal who's looking to make that one big score so he can move on and enjoy the remainder of his years with his wife. His partner, Mal points them to an easy job-- holding up some other criminals and making off with a nice amount of money. What Walker doesn't know is that Mal is in serious debt with "The Organization" a major criminal outfit running the city's underworld and intends to use his and Walker's share to get himself off the hook. As mentioned earlier, Walker is double-crossed by Mal, who makes off with Walker's wife and the money. Shot and left for dead, Walker emerges from his ordeal as a force of nature- pure, unapologetic fury. Here's the actual scene where Walker begins his quest for revenge:

In THE GENERAL, Martin Cahill is a far less menacing figure. Instead, Cahill goes about his criminal work as a showman- making the news broadcasts regularly with his "alleged" antics. While childish at times, Cahill is not a buffoon. He is a creative, audacious type- taking scores that even the IRA finds too risky. And Cahill becomes a victim of his own success, making too many enemies and closing off his avenues of escape. Cahill was so prolific a criminal that he actually robbed director John Boorman's house in real life years before the film was made. Boorman includes this incident in a montage, which you can watch below:

One big takeaway I got from these movies is that the the powerful make rules to protect the status quo- be it the ones who write the laws or the ones who break them. Walker goes against "The Organization" which seeks to incorporate criminal activity under one mega entity. The Organization has no regard for a "small business owner" like Walker, much like how Walmart wouldn't think twice about putting a Mom & Pop shop out of business. And with Cahill, he has to look over his shoulder at the IRA and the Loyalists, both wishing to take a piece of his success for their own interests. People like Walker and Cahill want to keep what they've earned and be left alone. But as these films show, no one is truly free from the greed of others.

Both movies can be found here: POINT BLANK and THE GENERAL.


Ivan said...

Hurray for Deliverance!

But lack of 24 mockery makes Jack a dull boy. Why don't you post the bowling story?

TheJackSack said...

Hey Ivan,

Thanks for the vote of confidence in my comedy. But I'm taking a break from 24 mockery for the time being. I don't want to beat a dead horse on old material. As we get closer to a new season and new material, things will pick up again on the comedy front.

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