Few tough guys could bring it to the screen the way Lee Marvin did. In the history of cinema, only a handful of actors have brought the type of steely intensity that Marvin seemed to effortlessly exude. For the barrel-chested actor with the cold gaze and the cast-iron cojones, being a badass seemed to be second nature. When he blinked his eyes, you could tell Marvin could kick anyone's ass, and when he spoke, it was clear he could level mountains with a wave of his hand.
Point Blank (1967)-Released on DVD this week, director John Boorman's adaptation of Donald Westlake's book The Hunter (later pathetically remade by Mel Gibson as Payback) features Lee Marvin in one of his best screen performances. Marvin stars as Walker, one of a small gang who finds himself betrayed and left for dead by his partners in crime. When Walker returns to settle a few old scores, he brings hell with him. Told as a dreamy, nonlinear narrative, Point Blank is an existential noir thriller in which Marvin may or may not be a ghost. Boorman's stylish, layered tale of revenge and retribution was one of the most influential films of its era; traces of it can be found in countless other films, from Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter to Steven Soderbergh's The Limey.
Prime Cut (1972)-Compared with some of Lee Marvin's more classic films like The Dirty Dozen or Hell in the Pacific, director Michael Ritchie's gritty gangster film remains one of the lesser-known works of the towering tough guy. Marvin stars as a Chicago mob enforcer who must venture to Kansas City to get a rogue gangster named Mary Ann (Gene Hackman) back in line. The action is transplanted from the familiar urban setting of other crime thrillers to the farms of America's heartland, where the criminal Hackman runs a white-slavery business and literally grinds his enemies into sausage.