POINT BREAK: An Action Film Masterpiece
Recently a trailer for an upcoming Point Break remake has gotten the internet film geeks up in arms. There’s lots of chatter from both sides of the fence. Some are open minded and willing to give it a chance while others are dead set against it.
I have to admit, I have no desire to pay money to see this rehash of one of my all time favorite action movies. I actually wanted to use this post, not as a rant against the new movie, but instead as a way to celebrate the film I first saw back in 1991. The movie who’s tagline read “100% Pure Adrenaline” completely lived up to that description. The one that the immensely popular Fast n’ Furious series was pretty much based on.
Keanu Reeves, fresh off the success of his Bill & Ted movies was, back then, sort of an odd choice to be an action star. For me, he was the mopheaded dudebro that I couldn’t really picture doing much besides playing air guitar and saying “Whoa” a lot. Well, I was sure in for a surprise when Keanu took on the role of former college football star turned FBI agent Johnny Utah. From his opening moments in the film, chewing gum in the rain and proving his skills as an expert marksman at the FBI’s training academy, I was impressed by his coolness.
After leaving the academy, Utah is assigned to work on a special task force in Los Angeles. His new mentor/partner on the job is Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey) a grizzled veteran whose wisecracking, colorful personality immediately clashes with Utah’s fresh faced, wet behind the ears, go get ’em attitude. Their latest job is to investigate and take down a band of daring bank robbers who go by the name “The Ex-Presidents”. Their nom de plume is derived from the crazy disguises they wear which are rubber president masks (Nixon, Reagan, Carter etc). Utah, a guy that’s overloaded with ambition, is quickly frustrated by the lack of evidence on these criminals but during a heated confrontation, Angelo reveals a wild hunch he’s had that noone else believes. His outlandish theory is that the Ex-Presidents are actually surfers that use the money from their robberies to fund an extreme sports/partying lifestyle. Upon hearing this revelation, Utah decides to go undercover as a surfer on the beaches near Los Angeles and try to find out if Angelo is right. He uses his moves on a local beach girl named Tyler (Lori Petty) to appear he’s a guy searching for a new lease on life as a surfer. Well it’s not long before he runs into a local wave riding rebel named “Bodhi” (Patrick Swayze) who, after saving him from some gnarly surf punks (one of which is Red Hot Chili Pepper Anthony Kiedis), becomes his friend that teaches him how to live on the wild side, hanging ten. This leads Johnny on a crash course that has him balancing between trying to stop the Ex-Presidents and keeping up with the charade of being one of Bodhi’s extreme sports gang. For Johnny, and the audience, the lines become blurred and we are taken along on the path Bodhi has chosen, the outlaw life that is both deadly and exhillarating. The bond between these brothers as well as Johnny’s love for Tyler, causes a suspenseful, emotion filled adventure from start to finish.
Kathryn Bigelow, who made several standout genre films before this one including Near Dark and Blue Steel proved she completely was as good as any of the male directors at the time. Her daring style and attitude towards the material was perfect to capture the fast paced, adrenaline fueled sequences that filled the movie. There are several amazing action highlights including an extensive frenzied footchase (shot with steadicam) as well as breathtaking skydiving stunts with one that has Johnny Utah jumping out of a plane without a parachute.
Most importantly is the dynamic between the lead characters. Patrick Swayze had just made another action classic we love here at FC, Road House and he is at his very best once again as the wise but unpredictable surfer/criminal that lives outside the law. He is an enlightened adrenaline junkie who gets highs from the waves he rides, the skies he dives and in the banks he robs. Keanu Reeves shows his chops for both action and drama as he channels his trademark duder persona into a badass justice keeper. Rounding out the cast is Gary Busey, who is the perfect, offkilter, energetic, humorous buddy character for a movie of this type.