Point Break * * * *

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Director: Kathryn Bigelow.
Screenplay: W. Peter Iliff.
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, Gary Busey, John C. McGinley, Lori Petty, James LeGros, John Philbin, Bojesse Christopher, Lee Tergesen, Julian Reyes, Daniel Beer, Chris Pedersen, Vincent Klyn, Anthony Kiedis, Jack Kehler, Tom Sizemore.

Before the Oscar winning heights of “The Hurt Locker“, director Kathryn Bigelow cut her teeth on some intense and very impressive pieces of work; the brooding western/vampire movie “Near Dark“, the stylish and futuristic “Strange Days” and “Point Break“, the adrenaline filled action movie that proved a female director could compete with any male in the genre – hands down.

A gang of bank robbers known as The Ex-Presidents have been looting the banks of coastal Los Angeles towns. Not much is known about them as they commit their crimes while wearing the masks of presidents Reagan, Nixon, Carter and Johnson. What is suspected is that they are surfers, so the F.B.I send in special agents Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) and Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey) to uncover more information. Soon Utah is mixed up with surfing guru Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) and gets drawn into his adrenaline filled, spiritual lifestyle.

This film was a real favourite of mine growing up in the early 1990’s and still ranks as one of the very best of cop/action movies. Quite simply, where it’s strength lies is in some breathtakingly fantastic action scenes and shows that director Bigelow could always compete with the best of them when it comes to staging an action set-piece. The chase scene alone – through the streets by car before going on-foot through alleyways and houses and at one point, the involvement of a pit-bull – is one of the best action set-pieces committed to the screen and Bigelow should be immensely proud. This is also bookended by some excellent close-contact surfing scenes a spot of bank robbery and sublime skydiving. What more could you really want? It’s a film filled with testosterone and macho posturing but it’s unashamed in it’s delivery. It even throws in some light spirituality and Bigelow juggles the elements with a high level of skill. One thing she doesn’t have here is restraint but that’s entirely the appeal. She’s out to set pulses racing and have some fun and that’s exactly what she does. If you give yourself over to it, you will too. Of course, the film’s lack of restraint throws up some moments when it goes way over the top and stretches credulity to breaking point but it doesn’t matter. It’s entirely forgivable due to it’s sheer indulgment and edge-of-your-seat entertainment.

So is the action genre just one for the boys? According to Bigelow, the answer is a resounding… No. She displays such skill and conviction that she crafts one of the most enjoyable action yarns available. It’s tagline is “100% pure adrenaline…” and on the evidence, it’s not far off it.

Mark Walker

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42 Responses to “Point Break * * * *”

  1. Excellent review, it’s been ages since I last saw this one.

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  2. I have loved this movie since it came out. A few weeks ago I got the Rifftrax for it and I loved watching it that way too! It’s just a great action movie that really holds up, while simultaneously being a time capsule for the 90s.

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  3. This is a guilty pleasure. There are some things that don’t quite make sense, story-wise, but the sheer fun of it overcomes a lot. Great start for the new year, Mark.

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  4. Very nicely said. Like you, I had a hearty addiction to this film for years. But it’s one I haven’t revisited in some time. It is pure adrenaline and even if it’s absurdities our heart pounding fun. It’s even been on my Phenomenal 5 for its amazing foot chase. Good stuff Mark.

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    • Glad to hear it man. I knew you were fan and that foot chase is just something else. The closest I’ve seen to a chase like that is the shootout in Heat. It’s absolutely superb!

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  5. I never knew Kathryn Bigelow directed this one. I’m a big fan of The Hurt Locker, and I might revisit this one before I see Zero Dark Thirty. Nice review.

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    • Admittedly, I was disappointed in Hurt Locker but Zero Dark Thirty looks excellent. This is certainly worth checking out man. It’ll give you an idea of good Bigelow is as an action director. She knows her stuff.

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  6. Total classic and always a blast to watch, even if you just laugh your ass off by how corny it is. Still surprised to know that this is by the same chick who brought us Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker. Huge surprise, actually. Good review Mark.

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    • Corny it is man but classic corn nonetheless. Few action movies are as much fun as this. It seems that a lot of people feel the same. I haven’t seen Zero Dark Thirty but I’ve never really been surprised with Bigelow’s action talents. Ever since I seen this I was completely convinced in her ability.

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  7. I love Point Break. I even grew my hair like Swayze for our friends wedding last year. Honestly, ruined their photos as Carly was a bridesmaid and I was on the main photos, but I thought I looked cool as fuck. Now I regret it, I looked a fool, but at the time I watched Point Break a lot after getting the blu ray :) Good times!

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  8. “Guess we must just have ourselves an asshole shortage, huh? ”
    “Not so far”

    A great film that holds-up well. Great point about the staging of the chase scene, which I had forgotten about.

    One of the scenes that’s engrained in my mind is Swayze jumping out of the plane back first in one shot. He constantly referenced it in all his promotional interviews at the time, and it has been logged in my head ever since.

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    • Haha! Great quote man. It’s surprisingly full of good dialogue for this type of film.

      Yeah, the chase scene is one of my all time favourites. It’s intense stuff.

      Only recently found out that Swayze actually done all his own skydiving. Those scenes were excellent as well. Like you say, it’s a great film that holds up well. Thanks man.

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  9. Having just seen this recently, I concur! I love Kea… I mean Chuck in this one, soooo hunky. Amazing that he doesn’t look that different now. Great review, Mark!

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    • Thanks Ruth. Such a good action movie. According to Bigelow, this was the film that finally allowed Chuck to be taken more seriously. He had been known more as a comedic actor before this. It also paved the path for his forthcoming action roles in Speed in The Matrix. I just love this film and if the story wasn’t so ludicrous at times, I’d have rated it higher.

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      • Oh I believe that. I think people brushed Keanu off as a comedian after Bill & Ted’s, but he’s actually more versatile than people give him credit for. The story does get preposterous at times but I enjoyed it overall. It’s one of the best ‘surfing movies’ to this day IMO.

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      • Yeah, Chuck’s no DeNiro but he can flit between comedy, drama and Action fairly well. That’s certainly a versatility that’s served him well over the years.

        So, you don’t reckon Chasing Mavericks is better than this? ;-)

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      • Ahah, no, it’s a different type of movie. But to be fair, GB did give his all for that one, he was believable as a surfer mentor, I mean not bad for a Scot eh? :D

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      • I’ll get round to Chasing Mavericks at some point. It is quite impressive that a Scot can pull off being a surfing mentor. Some surfing does go on in Scotland but not much. ;-)

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  10. It’s cheesy fun. I do watch it often. LOL. Can I just leave it there?

    UTAH! Get me two…

    LOL. It’s a ton of fun and it does have some great action sequences at times, but then you also have Busey and McGinley being goofy as hell, and the lead actors are Swayze and Reeves in one of the most comically homo erotic bromance ever… It’s all so hysterical from beginning to end. I do admit I’m a big fan.

    Vaya Con Dios, Bro…

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    • LOL. “Utah get me two”, is always a line that I loved. Busey is great here and McGinley is always good stuff.

      For a film of this type, I has a surprising amount of great quotable lines.

      “…some guys snort for it, jab a vein for it when all you gotta do is jump”

      Haha! Vaya con dios! ;-)

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  11. Ya know, I didn’t even realise this was Kathryn Bigelow. Shame on me! It’s a really fun film though and shows that Keanu isn’t so bad in the right role, he’s done some decent stuff!

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    • Yeah, this is still Bigelow’s best film I think. I totally agree on Reeves as well. Okay, his acting can be a little stretched at times but there’s something quite appealing about him. Let’s face it, who else takes as much criticism as him yet still draws the crowds in?

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      • Exactly, most of the stuff I’ve seen him in, he’s actually been alright and people still go and see it. I steered clear of The Lake House but I don’t think he does an awful lot wrong. He’s done pretty well with what he’s got!

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      • I always find that when he’s bad in a film, it’s just for short moments. He’s rarely bad throughout a whole film. Have you seen “The Gift” at all Chris? He was fuckin’ excellent in that man. He played a real nasty character and also gave a heartfelt performance in an earlier film called “Permanent Record” of which critic Leonard Maltin said… “Subtle treatment… of a pressing social problem, aided by excellent cast, especially Reeves as Boyce’s underachieving pal”.

        Not too shabby!

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      • I’ve not seen either of those to be honest, although I had heard good things about The Gift. He actually has a bigger range than he’s given credit for it seems. And that quote is certainly praise indeed. I hope that was straight off the top of your head and you store these things away for such an occasion!

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      • Definitely check out The Gift. It has a good cast, written by Billy Bob Thornton and directed by Sam Raimi. Reeves is the highlight though.
        I doubled checked that quote but I do remember Maltin saying it a while ago. When you check his little review of the film, that quote is included.

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  12. Great post. I just wish I’d discovered this film years and years ago (I done it only relatively recently). As a female, there is not many actions films I truly enjoy watching, but this film is just brilliant (I didn’t even know that it had a female director when I watched it first couple of times). I also like this film for the fact that Swayze’s character is not a real ‘baddie’, so it’s not an ordinary story of good vs pure evil, its something more complicated. Very nice.

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    • Yeah, I discovered this when I was about 12 or 13 and watched it religiously from then on in. I just love and it has many fond memories. Bigelow can certainly cut it as an action director which is fantastic see that a female can do it just as good. Gotta respect her for that. You should check out “Strange Days” if you haven’t seen that already. That’s another good one from her.

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  13. I love this flick! I still need to do the triple bill of this, Bad Boys 2 and Hot Fuzz :)

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  14. Yay! I love Point break. I realize Kathryn Bigelow has graduated to directing more serious fare (Zero Dark Thirty is incredible), but I have a soft spot in my heart for this film.

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