The Crushed Film Festival presents: Point Break
The Movie: Point Break
The Crush Object: Keanu Reeves
The Story: Newly minted Special Agent Johnny Utah (Reeves) goes undercover with a group of L.A. surfers whose Zentificating ringleader, Bodhi (Patrick Swayze), is also the mastermind behind a series of bank robberies. Taught to surf — and love — by Tyler (Lori Petty), Utah must then confront his role in the system, or the price of conformity and vengeance, or why Tom Sizemore is wearing eyeliner, or something. It should pop up on cable any minute now, so you can watch it yourselves and draw your own lofty conclusions.
Or not. Point Break's script doesn't bother with them, or with subtle character beats. Nor should it: the presence of James Le Gros aside, to say that this isn't the cast with which to explore nuance is an understatement of grand proportions, and anyway, the movie doesn't require it. It's no doubt the fashion to re-examine Point Break with a more favorable academic eye now that director Kathryn Bigelow has won an Oscar for The Hurt Locker, but I've always maintained that PB is a better movie than it's been given credit for. It feels exactly the right length; everything set up is paid off; the action sequences still seem fresh and suspenseful. Extra credit for the shoot-out in the rival surfer gang's crash pad — you know full well Keanu's face isn't going into those lawnmower blades, but you still hold your breath. The movie does what it means to do.
It's aged rather well, too. (And what a GBC time capsule! It's a trip to see Sizemore as an uncredited DEA agent, double-fisting kilos of crystal meth, during a season of Sober House — not to mention Gary Busey's original face.) Several lines of dialogue land like wet toilet paper — Bodhi's "They only live to get radical," LBJ's "We're stylin'!" — but my recollection is that they didn't work contemporaneously either. At one point, I did wonder why Utah isn't more worried that Bodhi recognizes him from his football days at Ohio State; shouldn't that compromise his cover? Then I remembered: no Google yet. Overall, though, it holds up pretty well.
And the acting is better than I'd remembered. Not good, but better. Swayze is relatively restrained, although it's possible I was just happy to see him looking so young and energetic; Busey is somewhat crazed, but that's in the script; Keanu is…Keanu. He has a few line deliveries so stilted that they belong in the circus, but PB came out before film culture had figured out how to write around him effectively, so what can you do.
Lori Petty…is a problem, but looking at both Tyler and the Kit role in A League of Their Own, I think the issue is that she tends to get cast as whiny, pissy tomboy try-hards, characters who would irritate me no matter who played them…especially if it's in the script that she confronts him at gunpoint while wearing his button-down shirt, unbuttoned, with nothing on underneath. I don't care what Utah lied to me about; I'm taking a few seconds to put on some underpants.
The Backstory: Keanu. That the movie opens with him in a tight black tee and jeans, getting rained on, justifies the film completely.
The Embarrassment Level: My own shame level isn't very high here. Keanu is a legit fox to this day, and the movie holds up as an action pic. Let's call it a 1. Lee Tergesen, on the other hand, should feel the flames of an 8 crawling up his face. I know a guy's gotta eat, and sometimes a guy's gotta have black dreadlocks to do that, but he could have de-hammed the scene where he's spitting beer into the campfire.
Tags: don't wear that ever again Gary Busey GBC It's Log Kathryn Bigelow Keanu Reeves Lee Tergesen Lori Petty Patrick Swayze The Crushed Film Festival Tom Sizemore try-hards