Point Blank(1967)


Payback(Theatrical version, 1999)

Payback(Director’s Cut, 2007)

Parker is a character in a series of novels by Richard Stark, Donald Westlake’s noir alter ego. He’s a man that makes his living stealing large chunks of money. It doesn’t matter where: payrolls, banks, race tracks, ball games. wherever large amonts of cash are handled. There’s a network of like minds that work together in various combinations to acquire large sums of money, splitting the take after the heat dies down.

Parker has his own set of morals. he works with different people, will only use violence as a last resort. But he won’t hesitate to use that violence if necessary. Above all, don’t cross him. He will never betray a partner, take any part of the loot that’s not his. But if you double cross him, he’ll go to extraordinary lengths to make sure you pay.

Eight movies have been made from the novels. For some reason, in none of the eight is the name Parker used. Four of the films  don’t seem to be available in any form that I can find. Those are listed below.

Mise A’ Sac, A French film based on The Score. Georges is the charcter’s name.

The Split, based on the Seventh. Jim Brown plays McClain in this one.

Made in U.S.A., based on The Jugger. Parker morphs into a woman named Pamela Nelson in this one.

The Outfit, based on the novel of the same title. Robert Duvall plays Earl Macklin in this one. Because of Duvall’s presence, you’d  think this one would be easily available.

That’s all I know about these four.

Now to the four listed at the top. Spoilers abound from here out.

Point Blank is based on The Hunter, the first of the Parker novels, It stars Lee Marvin as Walker, a man double-crossed by his wife and his friend after a heist and left for dead. His friend wants to buy his way back into the mob.

A year later, he’s after his cut of the money and revenge for his betrayal by two important people in his life. This time he has a “cop” feeding him information. The “cop” just wants to break the mob, doesn’t care about Walker and his concerns.

He finds his wife, who dies from an overdose of sleeping pills. Whether it’s accidental is never made clear. Walker starts working his way up the ladder, looking for Reese, the friend that betrayed him, avoiding  traps with aid of his sister-in-law, who Reese’s fancies. Walker kill everyone who crosses him along the way, until he ferrets out the real plan. The “cop” has been using him to clear out everyone until he’s left running the mob in Los Angeles.

Despite the strange ending, Walker walking away with no money, the false cop still alive, I like this one the best of the four.

Slayground, based on the novel of the same title,  stars Peter Coyote as Stone. He and two partners take down an armored car on a country road.They have to use a  substitute driver when the one planned is inadvertently killed on a traffic stop. Overzealous driving during the escape, they get involved in an auto accident that kills a rich man’s young daughter.

He hires a killer to track and  murder all connected. He starts, kills everyone else, and tracks Stone down in an amusement park out of country. It takes a heroic struggle before Stone comes out on top.

In this one they softened the Parker too much, making him come off  little whiney for my tastes. In the novel, Parker was sorry about the death, but was more interested in saving his own skin. I liked this one the least.

Payback, with Mel Gibson as Porter, is based on The Hunter and comes in two versions, the theatrical and the director’s cut. They are radically different. Same basic plot as Point Blank discussed above. But no fake cop in this one. Just a man after his money and revenge.

The beginnings are wholly different, In the theatrical version, Porter is having slugs dug out of his back by a doctor, the sort with no license and well paid to keep his mouth shut. Once recovered, he enters the city to begin his hunt. In the director’s cut, he’s recovered and entering the city walking, ragged and almost looking homeless. That’s the way The Hunter begins.

The wife’s a heroin junkie and, after Porter finds her, dies of an overdose from a stash that Porter missed. He starts working his way up the food chain in both versions until he reaches the top. This is where the two versions split widely. In the director’s cut, the whole subplot with Kris Kristofferson’s character, Bronson, the kidnapping of his son to extort Porter’s money, Porter’s torture to reveal the son’s location, the trap to get all the mob bosses in one place, the phone bomb, and the happy ending, of a sort, are all gone.

Bronson’s a woman in the director’s cut and is never seen, just heard over a phone. After the murder of one boss and the near hijacking of another, Bronson and Porter set up a drop for the exchange. Of course, a double-cross is planned and Porter works diligently on the sly to take out all the mob men ready to kill him when he takes the money.

Missing one, an innocuous looking woman, Porter ends up in a shoot-out with the woman and another few gunmen, taking them all down, but getting a few bullets himself.

The girl friend roars up in the limousine, drags him in, and they drive off. Both versions end the same, but Porter’s a little worse in the second version.

Both had their good points, but I think the director’s cut was the best. Apparently, the studio, or Mel Gibson, wanted a bit friendlier movie, if you can say that about such a viloent movie, either version.