Walker (Lee Marvin) is betrayed by his wife and partner and sets out on a deadly mission of revenge.
While 90s moviekids gush lyrical about the likes of Tarantino, Bryan Singer and Paul Thomas Anderson, back in 1967, during the "headache" of Vietnam, an English filmmaker went to Hollywood only one-film-old and made one of the most stylised, amoral, violent exercises in cinematic show-offery of the era. Over 30 years later, John Boorman's Hollywood debut still hits like a knuckleduster to the eyeballs, one of the hardest movies of the century.
Based on Richard Stark's novel The Hunter this is a visceral stew of myth, pitch-black comedy, explosive action and staccato editing. Scuttling back and forth between real-time and flashback, Walker (Marvin) is the angel of death (both literal and symbolic) returning from the "point blank" betrayal by his wife and partner. Revenge is order of the day, and with terrifying single-mindedness he exacts his punishment against the parched urban decay of LA. The subplot has a mysterious benefactor, Yost (Keenan Wynn), guide Walker's murderous intent and quest for his stolen money through the heirachy of a criminal syndicate, simply dubbed the "Organisation". Walker, not a smile to be evinced from his stony face, is on an unshakeable mission both for reparation and his own humanity, ending on a note of pure ambiguity.
The film rests on two towering strengths. Marvin's formidable performance, his deadeye intractability a template for Eastwood's Harry Callahan, and Boorman's vivid transformation of LA into a Day-Glo hell of sleaze and desperation. If there is such a style as in-yer-face, it's this fierce mix of ultra-bold cinematography and inspired tricksiness, which forces its way inside your skull.
Restored to its former glory although the sparse synthesised score rattles a little this is an extraordinary exercise in masculine chic.