Point Break (1991)

Point Break
Directed by Katherine Bigelow
Screenplay written by W. Peter Iliff based on story by Rick King and W. Peter Iliff
(number 205)

I did not realise that Katherine Bigelow directed this movie. I absolutely associated her with Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty only. Why do people not talk about Katherine Bigelow more? Her work is amazing. She’s masterful with getting expressions and landscapes, as well as switching to handheld for maximum tension in action sequences.

Keanu Reeves stars as the dude with the coolest name in 90s action movies: Johnny Utah. He’s fresh out of Quantico and put into an existing case with Gary Busey’s slightly over the hill kook who has a theory which no one believes. Their mission: to stop the ex-presidents from robbing more banks.

Patrick Swayze co-stars as Bodhi, a spiritual surfer dude who lives to surf and to get his adrenaline going.

I was kind of surprised to see this movie on the 500 list on account of it being a pretty standard 90s action film – but at the same time I’m pleased because I do sort of love this film. It’s one of those buddy movies where I really wish they’d just kiss and get over it but still. They have a token girl character so there’s the love interest which makes it less gay – but you gotta agree that the chemistry between Johnny and Bodhi is off the charts.

The movie uses physicality as a story telling device, showing us long montages of surfing to establish characters and Johnny playing football with Bodhi and his crew – proving himself to them with his sports skills and earning Bodhi’s respect.

Then there’s the gorgeously filmed skydiving sequence which is both beautiful and uplifting and fraught with tension because it’s the first time he’s seen Bodhi since the chase. You feel sure that he knows Johnny is on the other side of the law and you’re just not sure what they’re going to do. It’s so incredibly beautifully shot though, it’s breathtaking.

I love John C McGinley in this film – playing the utterly predictable angry boss who just wants results, calling the lead characters into the office just to scream at them about how useless they’re being. It’s a great performance of an utterly familiar role from police movies.

One cameo I didn’t expect was Anthony Keidis, lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He plays Tone, a loose cannon surfer who hangs out with some nasty guys. It’s a pretty great part for him, gets to show off his muscled body and his tattoos.

Does it make me love the people? Absolutely. Johnny is so easy to feel for, and Bodhi is the classic spiritual bad boy – doing bad things because he wants to enjoy his life to the fullest – live his dreams. Isn’t that an intoxicating idea?

Bechdel test: No, Tyler is pretty much our only named female character and she exists to show Johnny isn’t gay and to be a damsel in distress – an insurance policy as Bodhi puts it, to ensure that Johnny will play along with him.

Best line:

“It’s not a tragedy to die doing what you love”

State of Mind: Hells yeah this movie. Only, if I was in charge of the remake that Hollywood is hard at work on right now, I would absolutely bring the gay. Have Bodhi and Johnny make out at the party at the start, hook up a few times and have some long emotional rain kiss right before Bodhi wades into the sea. That’s what this movie needs.

Watched movie count

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2 thoughts on “Point Break (1991)

  1. One of my old lecturers, Sean Redmond, co-edited a book of critical perspectives on her called “The Cinema of Kathryn Bigelow: Hollywood Transgressor”. I haven’t read the whole thing, but I browsed his copy one day while waiting around and there’s some interesting stuff in there.

  2. They don’t make ’em like this anymore – how many current Hollywood stars would do what Swayze does here, deliver a line of dialogue and then jump out of a plane for real in the same shot?

    I’m surprised that you’re not familiar with Katherine Bigelow’s amazing ’80s vampire movie Near Dark. It’s got half the cast of Aliens (Lance Henrickson, Jeanette Goldstein and Bill Paxton) and it’s really something special.

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