Experimental movies usually don’t have a lot of action in them, and action movies tend to be fairly sitraghtforward enterprises. Strange, since both Point Blank and The Limey demonstrate that the standard revenge plot is fertile ground for filmic experimentation.
How did I go this far without ever having seen Point Blank? I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m very grateful for Alexander’s recent piece on it: it prompted me to finally sit down to watch it, and I absolutely loved it. It helps that I was prepared: I can imagine that people looking for something like Payback (based on the same story) will be put off by the shifty visuals, the juxtaposition of images from different periods in time, and the fact that the sound doesn’t always synch with what we see.
I was fascinated every step of the way. Lee Marvin gives a great central performance, almost emotionless, absent in his own story. Who knew Nouvelle Vague would fit so well with a simple, almost un-ironic gangster story? The story is only the bare skeleton, and the style adds layer upon layer of mood, melancholy, and metaphors.
Who is Walker? What motivates him? These questions aren’t really ever answered. Maybe he is, as Alexander suggests, just a ghost, an eidolon. Someone who was killed and is just staying around in order to settle debts.
The motivation of the protagonist of the Limey, Wilson, has a somewhat better defined motivation. His daughter was killed, and he wants to kill the man he thinks is responsible. Still, he wasn’t exactly close to his daughter, and hadn’t spoken to her in 5 years. He wants revenge as almost an abstract thing. Walker in Point Blank says “someone’s gotta pay”, and while he’s talking about money ($93.000 to be precise), the same sentence could be used to describe Wilson’s attitude.
In The Limey also, images are juxtaposed with no regard for chronology, the sound is often disconnected from the visuals, and there are many recurring stylistic motifs that are impossible to miss. The movie does forward, but not in a straight line: instead, it loops around, doubles back, and some images which we at first think are from the beginning of the film’s chronology are revealed at the end of the film to be situated at the end of the story.
It’s a great film, and while it definitely owes a debt to Point Blank, it is more emotional, simpler, and in the end slightly more satisfying film. I love the inclusion of scenes from an old Terence Stamp movie that fill in his character’s past, and Peter Fonda is a great fit as his opponent, Terry Valentine.
And as a final, totally unrelated remark: why has nobody but Soderbergh figured out what to do with Nicky Katt? He has some great, clearly improvised, lines (what’s the smartest thing that ever came out of a woman’s mouth?), and he’s the most alive thing in the movie. Why does he keep getting stuck as a third banana or a boring teacher? I say: give Nicky a leading role in a big comedy, and I’m sure he’ll make a splash.