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Point Break


Iron Man 3 marked my 148th review, so to hit the milestone of 150 I've decided to follow Gremlins and use a couple of write-ups I had considered saving for my top 100 list. Here's the first...


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Year of release
1991

Directed by
Katherine Bigelow

Written by
W. Peter Iliff

Starring
Keanu Reeves
Patrick Swayze
Gary Busey
Lori Petty


Point Break

+

Plot - For the last three years Los Angeles has been plagued by a string of bank robberies committed by a group called the Ex-Presidents. They are a highly skilled crew of four individuals who wear masks of former US Presidents to hide their identity. When FBI agent Angelo Pappas (Busey) is assigned a new rookie partner, Johnny Utah (Reeves), he tells him of his theory that the Ex-Presidents are a group of surfers. They hatch a plan to send Utah undercover as a surfer in hopes that he will learn the identities of the bank robbers. In his attempts to blend in to the surfer scene, Johnny falls for Tyler (Petty) and befriends a surf god by the name of Bodi (Swayze). Through these growing relationships he finds himself being drawn deeper and deeper into this new world and lifestyle

Point Break is a film that really does come across as goofy and corny at points, but I think it's done very much on purpose. Some of the dialogue and in particular the surfer spirituality are roll your eyes cheesy but it works. Yes the film feels pretty dumb, but it's smart dumb. Bigelow may not quite be going for a full-on deconstruction or spoof of the action genre but she certainly knows what she is doing. And one thing that cannot be ignored is the film's rather camp and homoerotic overtones, very much in line with the likes of Top Gun. Again however I think it's very knowing and indeed deliberate when it comes to taking this direction. The relationship that Bodhi and Johnny share is a very interesting one, with Reeves and Swayze sharing a real chemistry. And there are a few quotes which make it damn clear that the film is deliberately aiming for such campness, lines such as I know you want me so bad, its like acid in your mouth.

Now I know Keanu Reeves is a favourite punching bag for many a movie watcher, and I'm not going to put up an argument for him possessing great acting ability. However I do find that he has a certain something about him that allows him to flourish in certain ventures, even if I'm not entirely sure if I'm able to put my finger on it. He has a very easy-going, relaxed nature about him (almost akin to the stereotypical surfer dude in fact), and doesn't seem particularly desperate to really show off and make the camera pay attention to him. Sometimes it results in some pretty dreadful outcomes, however in the likes of Speed, Bill & Ted, The Matrix and here in Point Break it gives him a sort of effortless charm and affability. The other individual that makes up the film's bromance is Bodhi; leader of the bank robbers, expert surfer and a spiritual preacher of sorts. And in the role, Swayze is pretty bad ass! Initially he may seem like an unusual choice but he pulls it off; succeeding both at capturing the strong, athletic aspect of the character and the hippyish, surder dude schtick.

Film Trivia Snippets It may be tough to imagine but the role of Johnny Utah was initially offered to Matthew Broderick. Other people to turn down the role where Val Kilmer and Willem Dafoe, while both Johnny Depp and Charlie Sheen were among those to audition. /// When explaining to Johnny who Bodhi is Tyler tells him "That's Bodhi. They call him the Bodhisattva." Bodhisattva is a term in the Buddhist religion which means an enlightened being who, out of compassion, forgoes nirvana in order to save others.
In the potentially dull and tricky role of 'the love interest', Lori Petty provides a strong showing and a pleasantly surprising character. Her Tyler is about as far as you could possibly imagine from your typical surfer chick; there's not a strand of blonde hair in sight. The strength and attitude that Petty imbues the character with make her a very sexy and very appealing proposition. It really does provide a nice contrast against the stereotypical surfer chick you may be expecting. And then of course there is the enigma that is Gary Busey. He may be better known these days for his unique behaviour, and as a favourite punch-line for many a chat show host, but no matter what you want to say about him I don't think you can deny that there are very few actors who have ever commanded your attention the way that he does when he is on screen. You just can't help but be fascinated by what he is doing. Indeed you're never really sure what he's going to do next, a likely result of the fact that he probably doesn't know himself! I honestly believe that at any point during this film he could have suddenly donned a purple wig and started quoting lines from North by Northwest, and you still would have accepted it as part of the character; as Busey just being Busey! Oh and lastly, props to John C. McGinley for making a huge impression in the fairly minor role of FBI Director Ben Harp. His interaction with Reeves and Swayze, and the frustration it causes him, make for some great moments.

The film is excellently directed and edited throughout, particularly when it comes to the action. The sequences of surfing and skydiving are filmed in two disparate styles, capturing the duelling aspects of the activities. At times the camera just caresses what is in frame in beautiful slow-mo, creating the resplendent and spiritual nature of the enterprise; while at other moments it is presented in a fast and furious manner, mimicking the sheer adrenaline rush of these extreme pursuits. And then of course there is the film's rather famous chase scene which sees Reeves chasing one of the Ex-President bankrobbers through the houses, gardens and alleys of suburban California. It is far and away the greatest foot chase I've ever seen, and is well worth a place up amongst its vehicular counterparts in a list of the best cinematic chases period. The camera has so much life about it, and just places you right there in amidst the action. Oh and the film also looks terrific, featuring as it does some gorgeous photography of the surfing and skydiving.

Conclusion - I just think this is one of the best action flicks out there, an absolutely macho adrenaline rush of football, surfing, skydiving, guns and bank robberies. The central bromance and its surfer-dude teachings just adds to it. It's a wonderfully fast-paced flick with some great action sequences and stunts. It's got a series of engaging and charming performances, and all in all is just a terrific slice of fun. It's a film that has developed a bit of a cult following, and well deserving of it.