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.