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Point Break

****
1990

‘…a propulsive action film that’s rarely been matched for in-camera thrills and spills in the great outdoors….’

Arguably the jumping-off point from which The Fast and Furious franchise evolved, Kathryn Bigelow’s pumped-up cops and sky-divers movie is a must for armchair thrill-seekers. If you’ve jumped out of aeroplanes, and I’m proud to say that it’s one of the secret skills in my wheelhouse, you’ll know that it’s an adrenalin rush you’ll remember for the rest of your life, and Point Break manages to capture, bottle and commercialise that experience with elan.

Keanu Reeves is a different kind of actor from the norm; when you need someone to play a  quarterback turned FBI-agent turned undercover surfer, Reeves should be the first name on the team-sheet. Paired by Gary Busey, which is never a good thing, Johnny Utah is on the trail of a gang of bank-robbers known as the ex-presidents; they wear masks of Johnson, Nixon, Carter and Reagan while they cash-grab various seaside banks. Their leader is Bhodi (Patrick Swayze in a rare villainous turn) who gets wind of Utah’s investigation and takes his new girlfriend (a sparky Lori Petty) as hostage. Can Johnny Utah free his girl and catch the baddies without falling in love with them?

No plot summary can do justice to Point Break’s energy and attitude; this is a great looking film with little to jar the eye in terms of CGI or back projection. The surfing, free-fall, robbery and foot-chase scenes all look terrific, and the homo-erotic overtones are handled with some wit. Johnny is a likeable lunk, Bhodi a charismatic antagonist, and there’s support from such randos as John C McGinley and Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. The surfer atmosphere and philosophy is well caught without too much stoner humour; Point Break is all about Utah’s deep blue hero actions, notably jumping out of a plane without a parachute in his obsessive pursuit of Bhodi. But will he get his man?

Top Gun is often citied as the classic text of straight-up action and gayness combined in the same film without contradiction; Point Break manages the same trick, with macho badinage barely hiding the intense affection that seems to evolve between cops and robbers. Forget the lousy remake, Point Break is a propulsive action film that’s rarely been matched for in-camera thrills and spills in the great outdoors.

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  1. once upon…I knew a CAL FLA transplant risk kicks surfer philosopher guy. His ultimate goal wasn’t finding a wave in Fiji or Aussieland but to transcend this mortal coil and find Valhalla. Swayze captures the rebel/shaman vibe effortlessly, perhaps because he shared quite a few characteristics with Bodhi. I binged 4 seasons of Animal Kingdom this past weekend and see some interesting parallels. AK, however, makes all law enforcement the bad guys, and the sensitive bro is gay. If you love water ballet and rule breaking, the original PBreak can sweep you away. If you want a crash course in lie, cheat, and steal, AKingdom delivers. But what do I know? I just embellish, push the envelope, and five finger a few hours daily to surf great blogs and movies. Perhaps Utah’s FBI boss summed up both shows when he said: “You know nothing…you know less than nothing. If you even knew you knew nothing, that would be something…”

  2. Great review! Agree with every word. Love this film, and it’s one of my go to re-watches when I’m sick or just want to spend a lazy night at home. Never even bothered with the remake.

    And you’re a parachuting man, huh? I’m impressed. A friend and I were supposed to go, but our appointment was cancelled 3x due to high wind. I took that as an omen, and though she was up for a 4th try, by then I’d lost my nerve.

    • It’s something of a buzz, in a tiny Cessna plane with no doors, when the instructor says’ Now, just dangle your legs over the side, and when you feel ready, just push off…’ and it’s 2000 feet down! Probably better just to watch Point Break again…

    • I agree with your agreeing! I never, well, it’s been a while since I watched Point Break, made the through line to Fast and the Furious. But I see it now.

      A while ago, I took the plunge with an Asylum mockbuster, uh, Asteroid-a-Geddon, I think. Or was it Meteor Moon? Anyway, they took that whole FF thing to its ultimate conclusion: they spat a souped Corvette out of a space shuttle and they “landed” it on another ship. Nuts.

      I never bothered with the remake. It was on cable a couple times. I looked at it for five minutes. Couldn’t do it.

  3. If you’ve jumped out of aeroplanes hopefully you won’t do it from a wheelhouse. Great film and time someone put in a shout for Swayze, often seen as the tough guy women like rather than in the same league as someone like Reeves.

    • Avoiding landing on my own car in the car-park was my first priority. Otherwise, sky-diving is very much as portrayed here.

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