The Hard Way Made Easy

DATELINE: Little Known Classic

McGoohan & Van Cleef Old Stars Die Hard!

It comes across as a movie made for British TV, but The Hard Way is easily a thoughtful and careful drama.

The stars are the mainspring of this film:  you have a chance to see Lee Van Cleef play an American mobster with Irish ties, and his assassin Patrick McGoohan. What a treat to find these aging legends together in a taut character drama.

Since the film is set in and made in 1979, the two stars are about 15 years past their prime.

As a consequence, both stars look like extremely tired versions of their middle-aged selves. They are not quite old, but soon will be there. The film has long been unavailable in the United States, but now can be streamed from Prime.

As we all know, Patrick McGoohan made a career out of playing some kind of British secret agent with a license to kill, whether he was The Prisoner or Danger Man.  And, here he is not too far afield as Connor, a secret mob hitman.

Van Cleef was more at home on the range but seems not too far removed when he visits McGoohan’s bleak, spartan cottage in the rural wilds of Ireland. In seclusion, far from family, McGoohan’s noir hero stays alone, apart from close contacts for miles, but the depressing little house has electricity in some miraculous fashion.

Van Cleef will force his enforcer to kill again by some dint of personal loyalty. It is not a case of enthusiastic friendship, and their scenes together are fascinating in the politesse of criminal etiquette.

John Boorman produced this film, which was done in Ireland entirely as a modern film noir with redeeming moments of stunning silence. The sense of bleak coldness is palpable.

The film is a treat for aficionados, more akin to a LeCarre story.

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Point Blank: Right on Target

DATELINE:  Unusual Film Resurfaces

 point blank

Can it really be 50 years since John Boorman gave us his curious precursor to Twin Peaks, long before David Lynch had a brainstorm?

Point Blank confounded audiences in 1967 who were far less prepared for the kind of stuff Lynch gave us 25 years later. This film essentially introduced Boorman to serious audiences. It took a crime film and made it arty.

Lee Marvin is the dead Walker, left to die in haunted, empty Alcatraz after a botched crime pickup. Some undetermined time later, he is looking for revenge, in a gray suit with white hair. No one knows him by any other name, and everyone asks, “Aren’t you dead?”

Indeed.

Boorman films Marvin through screens, drapes, and other opaque filters. He even grapples with a ghostly sheet after he drives his nemesis off the penthouse roof.

Walker wants his money as well as revenge—and a litany of marvelous actors plays the hierarchy of the Mob, befuddled by him. John Vernon, Lloyd Bochner, and a marvelous and hilarious Carroll O’Connor, are his lineup.

Angie Dickinson spends a full minute trying to beat him up, slapping and punching the impervious Marvin in an amazing bit.

Marvin is indestructible and single-minded as Walker.

The film is short in minutes, but long on violent moments that were a revelation 50 years ago. The film plays with haunting memories repeatedly as Walker seems obsessed with reliving them, like a residual spirit.

It’s a tour de force by Lee Marvin and John Boorman. Just wonderful and fresh 50 years later.