Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Endlessly Rewatchable: Point Break

People are often stunned to find out that I’m a Point Break fan of hyperbolic proportions.  And I suppose, given my penchant for the works of Bergman, Herzog, Truffuat and the like, an action-thriller whose two most spoken words are “fuck” and “brah” wouldn’t really seem up my alley.


Point Break is the embodiment of film entertainment.  It’s sleek, funny, engaging, and, yes, endlessly rewatchable.  And, according to /Film, it was released 20 years ago today.  This knowledge is worth discussing for two reasons: first, because for fans, me writing about it (and you reading about it) will undoubtedly spark our interest in going home and rewatching it as soon as we can.  We want the guns, the masks, the banks, the waves, the dives, the Swayz; we want to be mindlessly entertained for 120 minutes in a way that no other film of the genre has been able to for the past decade.

Secondly, the anniversary is worth mentioning because there are, I regret to speculate, a wide number of you who have (gulp) never seen Point Break.

But this can’t be true, can it?  Surely everyone knows the story of undercover FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves, playing Keanu Reeves to perfection), and how he is tasked by his horrible boss (John C. “Why Don’t You Astonish Me, Shitbrains” McGinley) to catch a slew of bank robbers who disguise themselves with masks of ex Presidents.  (Quick trivia question for fans: what four Presidents do the robbers emulate?)
"Lose something, brah?!"
Coming up short in ways to crack the case, Utah’s over-the-hill, in-constant-need-of-a-meatball-sub partner, Pappas (Gary Busey, playing Gary Busey to perfection) suggests that Utah exercise a theory of his (that the ex Presidents are surfers) by learning how to hang ten on the rad beaches of L.A.  Utah soon becomes tight with Bodhi (Patrick Swayze, playing Patrick Swayze to perfection), but things aren’t what they appear.  People aren’t who they say.  Definitely… definitely. 

But, no.  Unfortunately it is true.  Many misguided people my age have never had the luxury of relishing Point Break. I know this for a fact, because I experienced it firsthand.  In October, I convinced a friend of mine that we should dress up as Johnny Utah and Bodhi for Halloween.  My friend, being the good sport that he is, shaved his beard, slapped some fake blood on his face and walked around for the whole night with a spot-on “my name is Keanu Reeves and I’m confused” expression on his face.  Me?  I dressed in a tux, put on a Ronald Reagan mask and was good to go. 
My buddy Brent Hunt (left) flexing his inner J. Utah, and yours truly (right) minus the .44 magnum 
But not really.  At the party we attended, I was asked repeatedly why I decided to dress like Reagan the President, and why I was wearing white gloves.  My friend just got looks of “who the hell is this guy, and why didn’t he dress up” confusion.  I spent the whole night taking off my mask and explaining to people who I was.  The party was a bust, and I was heartbroken.

So, back to the film at hand.  All kidding and geeking-out aside, Point Break is a genuinely perfect action-thriller.  If I’m turning on my film theory, I can tell you that it contains many of the best action sequences committed to contemporary film.  The surfing scenes are vivid and crisp, there’s a fight scene that is intense and, intentionally, hilarious (thanks much in part to Anthony Kiedis’ cameo), a search-warrant-gone-terribly-wrong scene that never fails to produce a gasp, a chase scene that seems impossible to achieve with a film camera (and not digital), and two skydiving scenes that, thanks to Mark Isham’s score, are supremely exhilarating.
"Amazing! Fucking amazing!"
Point Break was directed by Kathryn Bigelow (aka Mrs. James Cameron at the time of shooting), who recently became the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar for her incredible Hurt Locker.  Watching Point Break, it’s clear that we’re watching a film by someone with a keen eye for popping action, and someone who has no qualms with crafting a film of simple entertainment.  The film doesn’t take itself seriously, yet it is seriously awesome.

If you haven’t seen Point Break in a while, watch it again, it really has held up well over the past 20 years.  If you’re feeling extra devilish, buy the Blu-Ray, the surfing and skydiving scenes alone are worth it.

If, for some odd reason, you haven’t seen Point Break, do yourself a favor and watch it.  Then (I suppose you can wait a day or two), buy a case of beer, invite some friends over, and watch it again.  In no time at all, you’ll experience Point Break the way it is meant to be experienced: screaming lines of dialogue at the television while reaching for another beer, all without missing a frame.  Vaya con Dios.

(An excerpt from the badass fight mentioned earlier.  Back off, Warchild, seriously.)


  1. This is the best thing I'vever read on this blog. Amazing. Fucking Amazing.

  2. Nixon, Reagan, LBJ and, ummmm, Carter(?)