Most of the time, the description of a movie as a “thriller” lends a certain amount of promises: some action, some intrigue, maybe a share of plot twists–all the normal expectations. Things get mundane, however, when yet another lead character is rolled out who is down on his luck from earlier greatness; a former something or other who used to be at the top of their game, but circumstances have landed them in a state of discomfiture. Always they are at the bottom, living in unsavory conditions, and more often than not they are drunk. This literary shorthand is so seductive because of the obvious springboard for character development while the lead still retains the requisite skills to justify their actions. All that is left is to plant a love interest to provoke an “awakening” and the script writes itself.
“Black Point” gives us all of this, but manages one unique feature. The film centers on John Hawkins, a skilled and once promising naval officer now down on his luck, played by David Caruso, a skilled and once promising actor now down to playing in direct-to-video movies. When we first meet Hawkins, he is muttering drunken slurs in a bar, but without knowing him just yet, it is easy to view this as actually being Caruso after seeing Ricky Schroeder in his spot on “NYPD Blue.”
It turns out that Black Point is a sleepy fishing village in Alaska where the neighbors are quiet and even tolerate John’s drunken deportment and the frequent abandonment of his pickup on the access roads. His work involves delivering a fishing trawler or stack salmon steaks to the local store. No wonder his hobby is studying single-malt glassware.
Normally we don’t see individuals in a self-destructive tailspin who have the discipline to jog each day, but doing so enables John to catch his first glimpse of the new couple moving into town. Soon after that, he is making a delivery of fish when he gets to meet Natalie first hand, yet what few sparks they initially share get doused when her husband comes home. She is married to Gus, a screenwriter who was deeply involved in a money swindle. Gus is also slightly unbalanced and highly possessive of Natalie who is tormented into apathy.
The next time John is running off his hangover, he sees Natalie trying to drown herself, so he saves her. He billets her at his Spartan bachelor hut and declares that he will save her from the ogre she married. She is naturally attracted to an older man who guts steelhead for a living, so she lets slip that Gus has a stash of millions and soon the two are plotting their future together. This sets off the obligatory series of plot contortions.
When Natalie sneaks home to gather her Danskin collection, the husband’s associates return with the cash and John comes in time to shoot them, leading her to knock him out and frame him for the murders. So the woman who is too frail to leave her abuser is suddenly a devious snake. Gus, meanwhile, is meeting with a bigger bad guy, a suave and swarthy Spaniard with the non-suave name of Malcolm, who wants his bag of cash returned. Malcolm makes no effort to hide his blatant infatuation with Natalie, and at times she returns interest, and we are left to wonder why these three men are so obsessed with a woman who is a reedy head case with poodle hair.
We follow what are supposed to be a series of double-crosses, but half of these are actually people telling things to Gus that confuses him into thinking something else is happening. Then John lures the remaining members of Gus’s gang into the woods because he knows the area well having previously run into half of the trees with his truck. He captures one goon and finds out where Natalie is so everything can culminate at his house.
As Gus tries to eliminate our couple, Natalie is saved not from John’s heroics but from the poor structural capacity of his cottage, and in the end the money that everybody was after is actually forgotten about. What is hard to get a handle on is why John is so intent on making a life with a woman who he has witnessed being weak in spirit, then emotionally unstable, and finally selfishly duplicitous. But when you are a Rob-Roy enthusiast approaching middle age and you ply your trade of delivering fish in a tiny backwoods town I guess you hook your wagon onto any woman who will take you.