“You’re a very bad man, Walker, a very destructive man! Why do you run around doing things like this?”
Shot and left for dead by a friend and partner in crime (John Vernon), gangster Lee Marvin, as Walker, returns from the brink of death (or is all a fantasy at the point of dying?) seeking revenge against those who betrayed him. Vernon stole his money and his wife. He wants his money back. For clues Walker contacts his wife’s sister, played by Angie Dickenson, who tells him, “You’ll ask him for the money, he’ll say no, and you’ll kill him”, which just about sums up the simple motivation driving Walker, a killing machine every bit as single-minded and relentless as Schwarzenegger’s terminator, destroying anything that gets in his way, not just people but also inanimate objects: he shoots a bed, demolishes a car, and rips a phone out its wall socket!
Boorman intensifies Walker’s unrelenting pursuit through virtuoso camerawork, elliptical editing, and an imaginative sound design. One of the film’s memorable scenes begins by showing Walker purposefully walking down a long corridor, his footsteps loudly pronounced on the soundtrack. He has found out where his wife is and he’s coming after her. Boorman cuts back and forth between the wife obliviously going about her business and Walker relentlessly heading to where she lives, and although we see Walker driving a car at different points on his journey, the sound of his disembodied footsteps continues to echo on the soundtrack as the crosscutting continues, growing louder and louder, faster and faster as Walker gets closer and closer to his ultimate destination, until finally the footsteps and the man reunite and he busts through her front door. He’s not called Walker for nothing!
It’s an incredible sequence which establishes Marvin as an unstoppable force. But he’s also an immovable object: in an equally unforgettable scene, Dickinson futilely pounds on his chest for a good minute trying to break through his implacable exterior before she collapses at his feet, spent and exhausted. But even this unstoppable force/immovable object is no match for modern day organized crime. Marvin is an old-fashioned criminal with elemental motives and simple methods: he defenestrates Vernon when the poor sap can’t come up with his stolen cash. But the world he inhabits is more complex now. After dispensing with Vernon, Marvin expects to have a face-to-face meeting with the boss of The Organization to get his cash back – only to be stymied by a faceless syndicate which conducts business with plastic rather than paper currency. He’s not allowed to see the boss, and he won’t get his cash back because they don’t have any. The rules of the game have changed, rendering Walker an anachronism, his quest futile.
Posted on November 1st, 2010 by Mat Viola
Filed under: Reviews