Standard Issue writers are revisiting a film/book/TV series to see if it’s stood the test of time. As a Point Break remake looms on the horizon, Felicity Ward takes another look at the action-packed bromance.
What and why: Point Break takes place in the small fictional town of Los Angeles where “the air got dirty and the sex got clean.” Special Agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) is the new kid on the block at the FBI.
Their main case? A bank-robbing troupe (that’s what they call them in real life, right?) are fleecing the city for all they can. Oh, the robbers dress up as ex-presidents. And they’re surfers as well. And they’re Buddhists, trying to smash the capitalist state.
Sound ridiculous? Oh. It is. But it is brilliant. I could literally write a dissertation on this film so let’s just (point) break down what holds up about this and what loses a little in the quarter century since it was made.
Rated or dated: From the moment the opening titles run, with names like Gary Busey, John McGinley, Keanu Reeves and Kathryn Bigelow, the hairs on my arms stand up. I forgot; this is one of my favourite films of all time, and for probably the 30th time this movie still holds up, but not without its flaws.
The dialogue is wall-to-wall zingers. John C McGinley gets a lot of them, most notably, “Why don’t you astonish me, shitface” and “young, dumb and full of cum.” If someone described me like that I’d be filing a sexual assault claim. Keanu? Well he just lays into a doughnut. Because that’s the FBI way! Or when Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey) says, “Last time you had a feeling I had to kill a guy. And I hate that. It looks bad on my report.” If you can find fault in this, you’ve broken your joy bone.
“The action: whoah, Nelly! The car chase. The foot chase. The sky diving chase. Yes, you read correctly: THE SKY DIVE CHASE. Someone throws a full boxer dog as a weapon.”
Yes, it’s hard to make surfing look ugly – you’ve got buff dudes, sunsets and water like glass – but it’s captured in a way that understands the landscape and gets across the surfers’ spiritual connection to the water.
THE CAST IS AMAZING! The fact that there are four leads in this movie means time has gone into the characterisation and the chemistry between them all is astounding. Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves look like they could have sex or break out into a knife fight with each other at any point. I’ve not seen two men have such a mutual broner for some time. But then you have the classic buddy cop part played by Gary Busey who brings that ‘maybe I am drunk, maybe I’m not’ unpredictability to the screen. And then who could forget our Tank Girl, Lori Petty. Ballsy. Sexy. No shit. Capable. Vulnerable. And she teaches him to surf.
A few more women in the film would have been nice (not to mention people of colour. There are a loooooooot of white people in this movie). But no part is too small to spend time with in Point Break – from the condescending 12-year-old behind the surf shop counter to the inexplicably over-sexual FBI research lady, everyone leaves a mark. And who could forget half of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. (Easter egg: You find out how massive Anthony Kiedis’ mouth truly is when he shoots himself in the foot. What a metaphor!)
The action: whoah, Nelly! The car chase. The foot chase. The sky diving chase. Yes, you read correctly: THE SKY DIVE CHASE. Someone throws a full boxer dog as a weapon. Who does that?
Kathryn Bigelow (of Zero Dark Thirty fame) knows how to do tension. You turn every corner, jump every fence and brown every set of trousers with the characters on screen – you are in it. Bigelow gets tension from the action, from the landscape, hell, she even manages to get some out of old Cardboard Reeves himself. That is the hallmark of an Oscar-worthy director.
“Yes, it’s hard to make surfing look ugly – you’ve got buff dudes, sunsets and water like glass – but it’s captured in a way that understands the landscape and gets across the surfers’ spiritual connection to the water. ”
There are cons though. With the dialogue, for every three ball-tearers there are some honkers that cannot be unheard. The most cringeworthy moment is watching Johnny Utah’s penny drop as to who the real bank robbers are. It’s not enough that Lori Petty says, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost”, but they have to replay an earlier part of the film when they were referred to as “forget about it kid, they’re ghosts.” My guess is the studio had a “WHAT IF NO ONE GETS THIS REALLY OBVIOUS REFERENCE, KATHRYN?” moment, and she relented. And there are other stinky clichés that give it that anus touch.
So there’s a nightsurfing scene. It’s a cool idea and mostly they pull it off… except when you see the sun in the background. There are also a few scenes that are supposed to be set further out to sea, when you can clearly see the actors standing in the whitewash on the shore.
And the acting. Ten minutes in we get to see Keanu delving into his acting purse and he keeps pulling out pennies. Fortunately there are only three or four times in the movie we have to endure that; otherwise he is charming and funny and constantly looks like he’s thinking of tacos.
In those moments, I just delight in how many men are wearing midriff-length fleece cut off muscle tops in this movie. Bring it back. Or you can also focus on Swayze. Like a spiritual guru with a hankering for Benjamin Franklins and inner peace at the same time; hair like a labradoodle, temperament of a stool.
On the whole I stand by this film and I always will. It’s not perfect; the cheese is a little hard to swallow but the action and chemistry is second to none. Still a classic.1975 Views
Felicity Ward is an Australian comedian, writer, actor and full time knucklehead, based in the UK.