Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Point Break (1991)

Point Break (1991)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, Lori Petty, Gary Busey, John C. McGinley, James LeGros

Along with Michael Manns’ Heat (1995), Point Break is one of the greatest heist/action films of the 90’s. I mean, of course there were excellent action films like Speed (1994), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and The Last Boy Scout (1991) to mention but a few, but there’s something special about Point Break that sets it apart from all other action films from that decade. It has a certain magic to it, it has soul.  The upcoming remake made me want to revisit the original, to remind myself of its awesomeness, which I doubt the remake, directed by a guy called Ericson Core will be able to top. Why did Point Break set the bar so high? What exactly made this one such a memorable action film?

On Point Break, we meet Johnny Utah; an ex-quarterback turned FBI agent who is trying to gain experience in the field by attempting to capture a gang of thugs called ‘The Ex-Presidents’. These Ex-Presidents have never been caught and so, in order to make a name for himself, Johnny Utah takes it upon himself to bust them. The police suspect that these thugs are a gang of local surfers , so Special Agent Utah goes undercover and becomes one of them. Problem is he soon discovers these surfer dudes are actually cool people; when the time comes, will he have what it takes to take them down?

Point Break was the film that turned Keanu Reeves into a fully fledged action star. After this one he did Speed (1994) and voila! From there on in he became a bonafide action star; he’s never looked back. Still as I type this he’s making action films! Before Point Break Keanu was all about looking dumb and saying “whoa” but after the double whammy of Point Break and Speed, he transformed into an ass kicking, killing machine. Some of you younger readers out there might have always known Keanu Reeves as an action star, but for those of us who knew him from his Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) days know what a shock to the system it was to see Keanu change his image that way. It was like a coming of age thing, now he was no longer a stupid teenager, now he was a “man”.  

What works so well about this movie is its spiritual side, spearheaded by Patrick Swayze in the role of Bohdi, a surfer/spiritualist who’s an anti-hero of sorts. Sure he and his crew of ‘Ex-Presidents’ rob banks, but Bohdi also preaches a very positive life philosophy. He wants to truly live his life, he doesn’t want to be a drone, he wants to squeeze as much as he can out of life. He’s an adrenalin junky, so he steals banks in order to have the money to skydive and surf the biggest waves on the planet. His crew doesn’t kill, they get their money and they are out. So this is where the conundrum comes in because agent Utah infiltrates Bodhi’s circle of thugs, and finds them to be for lack of a better word, awesome. These guys are the kind of guys you want to hang around and party with. So does he turn them in or help them? Kathryn Bigelow and crew really managed to carve out a crew of ambiguous characters. Are they good or are they evil? We’re never really sure, which makes the film that much more interesting. Will agent Utah end up becoming one of them?  

Speaking of the films spiritual side, Point Break has a certain magic to it that not a lot of films manage to acquire. Bodhi’s life philosophy doesn’t come off as phony; he’s the real deal, a real human being. The surfing side of the film portrays a connection with nature, a fascination with the beauty of it all. There’s this scene that I love, in which Johnny Utah is learning to surf and his out in the ocean, catching waves as the sun is setting and he’s all excited. As the spray of the ocean surf hits him he says “I can’t describe what I’m feeling” and you believe it when he says it, the visuals, the music and the emotions are palpable and believable. The film expertly captures that moment when you feel one with nature, when you connect with it and realize that cars, buildings and cement are crap next to the beauty of nature. This is what really makes the film special for me. Kathryn Bigelow directed this one, showing her trademark panache behind the camera. There’s this chase sequence that’s just amazing. Utah runs through a bunch of suburban houses while chasing one of the Ex Presidents, it’s an awesome scene that was shot with her trademark long takes. Awesome stuff. As an action film, it does not disappoint.

There’s a Point Break remake on the horizon, as I write this it hasn’t been released yet. But it was directed by a total unknown, starring equally unknown actors, so I don’t know what to expect from it. How exactly do they plan on surpassing Bigelow’s film? Will they manage to capture that magic? I seriously doubt it. Did they cast good actors in the roles? Who knows, but Patrick Swayze, Keanu, Lori Petty and Gary Busey really bring it on this one. They are part of what makes Point Break run without a hitch. So yeah, what we got here my friends is a great action film, and a great film all around. Check this one out for a taste of one of the greatest action/heist flicks of the 90’s.

Rating: 5 out of 5


Paul S said...

Great review, I'm glad I'm not the only one who unabashedly loves this movie, Reeves and Swayze are on top form here! Point Break, Near Dark, The Hurt Locker - I think Kathryn Bigelow deserves to be recognised as one of the finest action directors of all time, no qualifier needed.

Franco Macabro said...

Agree..shes an amaz8ng director. One of my favorite of hers is Strange Days...such an underrated sci-fi! But Point Break is for me the perfect action film with a soul.

Sergei Kolobashkin said...

Bigelow does magic. I'm a big fan of this movie. I've seen it a dozen times. Strange Days is the other gem that is usually overlooked for some reason. Every movie she does is awesome. Can't wait for something new from her.

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, Strange Days played with so many good ideas, like that idea about recording experiences and being able to re-live them through technology. It was in many ways similar to the themes seen in Douglas Trumbull's Brainstorm (1983), starring Christopher Walken. But Bigelow is amazing, I can't wait for her to return to sci-fi or horror, I loved Near Dark (1987) as well.

During Point Break she was married to James Cameron, which is why Cameron serves as producer for this one. From what I hear, Cameron also wrote part of the ending, but wasn't credited for it.


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