By Thomas Griffiths
“This was never about the money, this was about us against the system. That system that kills the human spirit. We stand for something. We are here to show those guys that are inching their way on the freeways in their metal coffins that the human spirit is still alive.” Patrick Swayze, 1991
Point Break is directed by Katherine Bigolow and stars Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, Gary Busey, Lori Petty and John C. McGinley. It is a film about a CIA agent who has to infiltrate a group of surfers who also rob banks in order to fund an endless summer, led by Patrick Swayze.
There’s something about action movies from the 1980s and 1990s that seems simply beautiful to me – it’s as if these two decades were the heydays of the genres. I mean, Terminator 2, Die Hard, Predator, Indiana Jones – these films have become action classics. Point Break deserves a high place among the classics of this genre, simply because the premise of this movie and the way in which it is written and directed makes it unique among action films in general, in my opinion.
The opening sequence of this movie is perhaps one of the subtler hints at what the film is truly about, which you can only truly realise when the film gets going – it features a transition between Johnny Utah (played by Keanu Reeves) going through this gun range and blasting down cardboard targets, and Bodhi (played by Patrick Swayze) surfing these huge waves, which just looks so cool. This sets up the different worlds that both characters belong in, since Bodhi lives by his own rules, and Johnny Utah lives by somebody else’s rules. Now, I understand if people think that Keanu Reeves is an unremarkable actor, but I disagree to a certain extent: Keanu Reeves isn’t a particularly diverse actor, but he can give a realistic and almost charismatic performance in a film, which is almost perfectly exemplified in Point Break.
Patrick Swayze plays the main villain of this film, Bodhi, and he’s fantastic. From the scene where he first meets Johnny Utah, onwards, Swayze portrayed Bodhi to have such charisma and complexity to him, when if he was portrayed in the wrong way he could have come across entirely wrong. However, my favourite part of this entire film is how the relationship between Johnny and Bodhi defines another theme in this film – the difference between living by your own rules, and living by the rules of other people who will never truly understand you. This is exemplified perfectly in the scenes that take place in the CIA meetings – for example, the first scene between Johnny and Harp (played extremely well by John C. McGinley), the asshole CIA agent who immediately comes across as a total jerk. Every time McGinley is on the screen, I find that it highlights the question ‘What is the point in doing a job for people who don’t respect you? In contrast, whenever Johnny is with Bodhi, Bodhi understands him and he feels like a free man when he’s among these surfers.
The action sequences and stunts in this film hold up very well in this film, as do the surfing sequences, which have an almost dreamlike aspect to them that I think acts as a major asset to the film. This film actually made me want to surf like the characters do in this film, simply because it creates a world that is just fun and exciting and engrossing, in contrast to the straightforward, by-the-numbers environment of the CIA. The house raid scene where Johnny gets into a fight with this thug and almost gets his face ripped apart by a lawnmower still looks incredible to this day, simply because it is directed so well and it’s shot so that it actually looks like it’s about to happen. In fact, the entire action sequence that takes place in that house is so good because almost nothing is held back, which also added something to the movie and made it more exciting to watch.
However, even though I really like Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze in this film, my favourite character of the lot is probably the character of Angelo Pappas, played indescribably well by Gary Busey. Pappas is one of those characters who is both a badass, but at the same time does not give a damn. He has so many great lines in the film, and he just seems like such a likeable guys even though he insults almost everyone he comes across. Pappas gives one of the best scenes in the entire film where he just faces off with Harp after a bank robbery and provokes the man into insulting him, before straight-up *punching him in the freaking face* and telling him ‘Respect your elders!’. I laugh every time I see that film. Pappas’ relationship with Johnny is played out really well by both actors.
The way this film ends is so cool, in my opinion. After playing cat and mouse throughout the second act of this film, Bodhi and Johnny meet up for the last time in Australia where the ’50-Year Storm’ finally comes along, and the two of them have this really enthralling final fight scene where Johnny finally manages to handcuff Bodhi, who instead of becoming angry at being defeated, despairs at the fact that he’ll miss the surf of a lifetime. Johnny and Bodhi finally reach an ultimate understanding that Bodhi isn’t going anywhere, but wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he never got to surf that wave. Johnny defies his orders and releases Bodhi, who runs off and tries to surf to his inevitable demise. The fact that Johnny just walks away and assures his colleagues that Bodhi isn’t coming back is such a good element, especially when Johnny throws his FBI badge into the sea afterwards. It makes the film look like Bodhi teaching Johnny to live by his own rules and shed the ‘manacles’ that being a federal agent has put on him.
Point Break is an extremely fun, really exciting 1990s action film that I really enjoy watching, and which still holds up today. Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. I recommend watching it if you like action films, or if you like either one of the actors in the film, because everyone gives a good performance and the way this film is directed makes it a must-see action film.