Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Point Break": Patrick Swayze and one last surf

We lost a Hollywood icon yesterday when Patrick Swayze took his last big wave after a protracted bout with pancreatic cancer. Reflecting on the long career of an actor I commonly and inexplicably confuse with Richard Gere, I couldn't help but go back to one of Swayze's cult hits that I hadn't seen until only a few months ago. After being completely blown away (no pun intended, actually) by Kathryn Bigelow's sleeper hit "The Hurt Locker", I finally felt compelled to sit down with a DVD I'd owned for years but never watched: Bigelow's inexplicably enjoyable surfer-bank-robber thriller, 1991's "Point Break".

Keanu Reeves' most impressive acting credit to date was as Ted, one of the Rhodes-scholar time travelers in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure". As Johnny Utah, an FBI agent teamed up with Gary Busey in order to take down a ring of surfing bank robbers in LA, Reeves channels his inner Ted and turns in, especially in the second half of "Point Break", one of the worst screen performances I've seen since watching a full three minutes of "Gigli". Reeves furrows his brows like nobody's business, and delivers his lines with the gravitas of Christian Bale's Batman were Batman a regular on the cover of High Times.

Swayze plays Bodhi, a charismatic surfer that takes an undercover Reeves under his wing, and, obviously, ends up being the ring leader of the bank-robbing gang under investigation. Of course, before Reeves finds out, a budding bromance blooms. When Reeves has a chance to take Bodhi out, he, in the words of the fantastic comedy "Hot Fuzz", "just fires his gun up in the air and goes 'aahhhhh'".

The absurd melodrama and ridiculous premise aside, though, there is something inherently gripping about "Point Break". In one particular scene, when everyone has figured out who everyone else is, Swayze takes Reeves skydiving. Swayze tells Reeves he packed his chute for him, and over the next minute, the other robbers all pass around their chutes in what seems to be a deadly game of shells. This awesome scene is not on the internet. I call bullshit.

It's an action-vehicle that features not one, but two, skydiving scenes, a car/foot chase that's damned entertaining, a couple of great fire-fights, and Gary Busey being a silly fat bastard to John C McGinley's bureaucratic asshole. What really drives "Point Break", and perhaps why this film has had such staying power despite it's silliness, is Patrick Swayze's charm. You REALLY grow to love Bodhi, he's just so cool! It's a major bummer when it turns out he's the bad guy that needs to be taken down.

That's, in a way, how I'll feel about Swayze's legacy - his likability overpowering some of the duds of his relatively short career (do NOT try to convince me of the artistic merits of "Red Dawn" or "Road House"). In any case, "Point Break" is a guilty pleasure, like terrorizing Whoopi Goldberg after bringing sexy back to pottery. Here's to Swayze - good luck catching your Fifty Year Wave in the Sky.

TOO MUCH: Love interest side plot

COULD HAVE USED MORE: Busey being Busey

FILM SNOB NOTE: As mentioned earlier, "Point Break" was discussed in the buddy-cop spoof "Hot Fuzz". Towards the end of the movie, they take it one step further:


IF YOU SAID THIS WAS YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE, I'D THINK: your taste is either ironic, or just bad.



  2. No, TC. Drinking blood =/= cinematic genius.