Kathryn Bigelow is arguably one of this generation’s best director after her success with The Hurt Locker back in 2010 earning the Best Director Academy Award over her ex-husband, James Cameron. A handful of people may not realize Bigelow has been in the movie making business since the early 80’s writing and directing the independent biker drama The Loveless back in 1982 starring Willem Dafoe. Bigelow also directed cult classics genre bending films such as Near Dark (a Western with vampires), Strange Days (a cyberpunk styled Noir thriller), and one of the most expensive films ever made, K-19: The Widowmaker, starring Harrison Ford and Liam Nesson in a disaster film as Russian submarine captains that are more convincing than Sean Connery in The Hunt for Red October. Here on Film A Week, I decided to say screw covering these other exceptional films, I am covering Point Break.
Considered a cult classic despite being a successful box office hit, Point Break captures the essence of the early 90’s adrenaline craze and action flicks of the era all in one neat little package. The always wooden Keanu Reeves as Johnny Utah, FBI as he goes on to investigate a series of bank robberies in Southern California done by a group known as ‘The Ex-Presidents’ making Utah heads into the world of surfers meeting zen master Bodhi played by the late and great Patrick Swayze…and that’s just the beginning.
The film starts out with former college football quarterback Johnny Utah going to Los Angeles to the bank robbery sector of the FBI headed by hardass FBI director, Ben Harp (John C. McGinley). Utah is brought in to help track the location of the Ex-Presidents as stated above. The gang dress up as Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon (subtle, writers), Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan respectively. Following a sting of robberies, he is teamed up with FBI veteran agent, Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey). Yes, reader, that parentheses is true, Gary Busey is in this and he is as fun crazy as one expects Busey to be. Pappas brings up the insane and borderline ridiculous theory that the Ex-Presidents may be surfers. Utah is just as crazy to believe him to decide to go on his lead to head to the beach and infiltrate the world of surfing. Utah tries to surf, failing miserably, and comes across a woman named Tyler (Lori Petty), which he gets to know and convince to teach him how to surf. As he learns in a typical grungy 90’s montage, he meets up with Tyler’s ex, The Swayze, I mean, Bodhi and his gang of friends, Roach (James LeGros), Nathaniel (John Philbin), and Grommet (Bojesse Christopher with no relation to the dog of the similar sounding name). Utah gets to know the ways of zen and surfing under Bodhi’s wing, ends up with Tyler by sleeping with her, and shows off his former football skills while giving exposition of his trick knee that surely will not lead to being Chekov’s Gun.
Johnny gets a clue from Pappas about toxins found from a hair follicle that has similarities with toxins found in the ocean waves or ‘breaks’ (Note: As a writer from California, I can clarify that our beaches are some of the most wretched beaches in the world). this leads Pappas and Utah to cut the hair of other surfers leading to some stellar “acting” by Keanu imitating a dude. After a group of rough and tough surfers attack Johnny with Bodhi saving him, Johnny gets a tip by Bodhi that the guys who attacked him do not understand the concept of surfing leading Johnny to tell Pappas they may be on the right track to nabbed the Ex-Presidents. Utah and Pappas head off to raid the hideout, but wind up screwing up a DEA undercover case investigating them for dealing cocaine with a surprise appearance by Tom Sizemore as a pissed off DEA agent. After that gigantic screw up, Johnny heads with Bodhi and Tyler early in the morning to catch a break when he comes to the sudden realization that Bodhi and his gang are the Ex-Presidents in a sequence even Chazz Palminteri could have seen coming. Johnny trails the group to discover they are scouting banks for the next hit and arranges with Pappas to go on a stakeout to finally get catch them red-handed. The next day at the stake out, Johnny is busying order meatball sandwiches thanks to Angelo’s appetite while the Ex-Presidents arrive on the scene to begin their heist. Utah and Pappas proceed to chase them down leading to a foot chase that is one of the best ever put on film that one must see for themselves to believe. At the end, Chekov’s Gun goes off as Utah’s trick knee dislocates and locks eyes with the leader in the Reagan mask and shooting off into the air in angst of not catching him.
Later that evening, it is discovered that Bodhi and his crew are the Ex-Presidents, which one could have figured out in the first ten minutes of the film. Even better, they know Johnny is an FBI agent due to his knee or it can always be Joe Theisman (Super Bowl Sunday is this weekend, we had to put a football joke somewhere). Bodhi brings Johnny along to go skydiving with the crew for a beautifully shot skydive sequence, Bodhi tells Johnny he knows he is an FBi agent and has hired a friend named Rosie (Les Tergesen) to take hostage of Tyler since he is not one for violence. Bodhi takes Johnny with the Ex-Presidents to the next bank heist to possibly frame if (at least, that what I thought, I do not really know). The Ex-President continue with their heist as they kill an off duty police officer and heading into the vault unlike their past robberies spending too much time with two of the Ex-Presidents dying in the gunfire. Johnny is knocked out by Bodhi who gets away as Harp comes to give Johnny the third degree leading Pappas to knock out Harp for mistreating Johnny. Pappas and Utah head off to the airport to fight off against Bodhi and his last remaining man, Roach in an all out gunfight. Roach gets injured with Pappas fatally wounded as Johnny goes of to avenge his friend by heading into Bodhi’s plane. Bodhi and Roach leave Johnny behind in the plane that will start to crash down. Johnny, fed up and ready to take vengeance jumps out of the plane to free fall dive onto Bodhi to allow them to both land safely. Nearing too close to launch the chute, Bodhi and Johnny fall with Johnny dislocating his knee once again. Bodhi gets away scott free and tells Rosie to come and release Tyler who runs to Johnny’s aid. Everything seems completely hopeless for Johnny and the investigation into the Ex-Presidents robbery as the film fades to black and the credits roll.
Just kidding. Despite how amazing and dramatic that ending may be, this is a typical post-Die Hard action flick, so the bad guy is not going to get away easily. Nine months have passed and Johnny finds Bodhi, back to looking like the Swayze we know and love,in Bells Beach, Austrailia, ready to tackle on the big wave of the 50 Year Storm he dreamed about. Bodhi and Utah get into one more scuffle with Utah letting Bodhi goes as the authorities watch Bodhi head to die in the wave with Utah leaving his badge behind.
Point Break is not that great, but it isn’t that bad either. It has flaws in its own logic, riddled with ridiculous moments such as the picture above that involve a gas pump being used as a flamethrower, and some very poor moments of acting mostly from Keanu Reeves’ woodenness. The film has probably stood the test the time due to Bigelow’s near-perfect action direction and likeable performances by Patrick Swayze and Lori Petty. The action and surf sequences in the film also is beneficial in helping it be the cult classic it is today with an impressive foot chase and skydiving scene that is truly remarkable that no film has been able to measure up to. The entire premise is beyond ridiculous, but the film knows it is and uses it to its own advantage and has gone to inspire (or be ripped off, depending on what side you are on) 2001’s The Fast and the Furious right down to casting the spectacularly wooden and abysmal Paul Walker in a Johnny Utah-esque role. The real question remains: would I recommend Point Break? Hell yes. Invite a couple of buddies over, grab some pizza and a couple of brews, kick back and watch a cheesy 90’s action film with everything you wanted and everything you need.
Next time, we detour form the action genre and go into the wayback machine to the dance musicals. A gambler and performer drifts off to New York to earn money for his own wedding, but comes across a dance instructor who might change all that. Get on your dancing shoes and have a fine romance because Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are going to sweep us up in the 1936 classic, Swing Time.
Film A Week- Week 5: Swing Time
Friday, February 8th/Saturday, February 9th
Stinger of the Week