If there’s been a tougher Hollywood hardman than Lee Marvin, then I’d not want to be the man to tell him.
From his early, bit-part roles in innumerable westerns and crime films like The Big Heat or Bad Day At Black Rock through to leading man turns in The Professionals or The Dirty Dozen, Marvin specialised in playing iron-hard men.
In his roles, he came to embody a quiet masculinity. One where steely self-belief in his own competence negated the need for showy demonstrations or hollow blustering. And nowhere has this persona been put to better use than in Point Blank (1967).
In the film, director John Boorman boils down his screen identity to its essence. Together they create an existential angel of death. An impassive, unstoppable, force of nature, relentlessly moving forward, consumed by the sole task of retrieving the money he’s owed.
Marvin plays a gangster who, in the aftermath of a heist, is double-crossed by his partner Mal (John Vernon). Vernon shoots Marvin and – thinking he’s dead – absconds with the money and Marvin’s wife with whom he’s having a clandestine affair.
It’s a perfect plan, except if you shoot Lee Marvin, you just better make sure you kill Lee Marvin.
After recovering from his wounds and learning where his estranged wife is living, Marvin sets out to retrieve his money and exact his revenge.
The scene starts with Marvin purposefully striding down a spartan corridor, the harsh sound of his heels beating a foreboding drumbeat of dread. As he continues his journey, the crisp, clipping, noise of his shoes continues lending an ominous tone to the sequence.
Finally, Marvin arrives at his wife’s location. Bursting into the apartment, he storms into the bedroom and empties his revolver into the vacant bed – the symbol of his personal and professional betrayal.
This isn’t the moment of vengeance he sought. But this scene – which takes place near the beginning – sets up the rest of the film.
No scene embodies Marvin’s character more in his simplicity and intensity of purpose. If revenge is a dish best served cold, then here it’s chilled to absolute zero.