Lee Marvin plays Walker, who is persuaded by an old friend to take part in robbing money from a criminal gang on the island of Alcatraz.
Walker’s wife joins them, but when the friend kills the gang members, Walker flees the scene and settles in an old prison cell. His wife finds him, and when the friend appears it is clear that both he and the wife were in on it together.
The friend shoots him and they leave him, for dead. However, he does not die and is approached by a man called Yost, who agrees to tell Walker where his cut of the money is if Walker will despatch the criminal outfit called the Organization.
Many members of the Organization are duly disposed of, and Walker’s search for the money leads him full circle, and to a startling discovery.
There are many aspects to this movie that take it outside the realms of the standard revenge flick. Marvin excels as a cold-blooded ruthless man out for not so much revenge as his money, something he will do anything to secure.
Boorman’s dream-like direction is firmly rooted in the art house; combined with a number of flashbacks, the viewer is invited to consider whether what he watches unfolding is, in fact, happening at all. Is it all a dream? Did Walker actually die in the cell?
These questions become more compelling when one realises that Walker does not kill anyone in the film; while various members of the Organization do meet untimely ends when Walker appears, the deaths are not actually his doing.
Poorly and pointlessly remade by Mel Gibson as Payback, this is a compelling movie which has dated a little, in no small part because of the soundtrack.
Big John Stegman