Classic Film Review: Point Break

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‘Little hand says it’s time to rock and roll…’

(Point Break, Kathryn Bigelow, USA, 1991, 120 minutes)

There’s nothing quite like Point Break’s opening; cascading rain, the heavy wash of the ocean, a wet-suited surfer riding the waves. Ultimately though, it’s Keanu Reeves in a tight t-shirt, gripping a gun while chewing mightily on a stick of gum, to the sound track of Over the Edge by La Guns. I can remember watching it late one night after returning from a rather boozy new year’s party – and I’ll tell you, the sound track and crashing waves seem even more spiritual under the influence. One might say it’s similar to the backing track one gets as a space shuttle lifts off, that accompanies a father as he saves his son from getting stuck in a refrigerator in slow motion or as an injured soldier looks up for the final time and surveys the battlefield, wishing he taped the last episode of Eastenders. It’s pretty darn dramatic, and so it should be: this is a must see classic if there ever was one.

Released on November 22nd 1991 (UK), the action thriller still has the balls to give you an adrenaline rush, and as the tag line states: its ‘100% Pure Adrenaline’. Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) a young, fresh-faced FBI Agent goes undercover with fellow off-the-wall partner, special agent Angelo Pappas (Gary Bosey). Fortunately for us ladies, this means Utah donning a wet suit and learning the art of surfing the waves, as their assigned criminals, bank robbers, are supposedly surfers. Theory wise, all Utah and Pappas have to go on is a slick of sex wax left behind as one ex-president scuffs the counter, and a CCTV video of another’s bare, tan-lined beach bum. Other than that, the ironic Ex-President masks they don, is all they have to go on.

I wouldn’t say Utah hits it off immediately with his partners. As his boss, John C. McGinley (Ben Harp – our favourite biscuit-spitter from Scrubs) states from the very beginning, it’s clear the rest of the team think Utah’s, erm, ‘young, dumb and full of come.’ Don’t hold back now will you McGinley. Utah’s undercover identity surfer-wise doesn’t improve things, but he manages to swing Pappas round from thinking he’s the stereotypical ‘blue-flame, Quantico cat, quarter-back punk, Johnny Unit-us or something’ that everyone thinks he is, by getting the ball rolling with his surfer’s theory.

The audience is confronted with a visually effective series of edits as we meet the Ex-Presidents for the first time. A series of quick close-up shots come together to depict the scene, rather like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle making up an image; from the robbers engaging their firearms to brief exposures of bare chest and much mask-adjusting. An edit of the main criminal’s watch, followed by his playfully lyrical words: ‘little hand says it’s time to rock and roll’ signals we’re in for some action – and this is quality old-school action at its best, rock and roll style.

Script wise, Point Break unites surfer-meets-rebel terminology. From the stereotypical ‘duuude’ to some rather colourful expressions one might have to edit out from this review – this script has spunk. There’s no way you’d get a better assortment of names than the ‘druggy’ surfer crew: Warchild, Bunker, Babbit and Tone (who’s actually the lead singer Lee Tergesen from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers). Maybe this is why celebrities are experimenting with their naming skills? Regardless of what will happen to their kids in the playground with a name inspired by a fruit.  Hmmm, could I pass off as ‘Hawkeye’?

Through Utah’s romantic attachment, Tyler his ‘lead’, a petite, dark-haired surfer with a cool attitude and inquiring eyes, he meets Brodhi (Patrick Swayze) the ultimate adrenaline junkie come spiritual surfer. Taking on the total surfer lifestyle, Utah experiences the ultimate adrenaline rushes, from surfing at night to hardcore partying, sky diving to beach bonfires (started by Rosie – a cold-blooded killing machine that should be sectioned). But, is Utah’s new surfing buddy taking things a little bit too far? As Brodhi says, the ultimate lesson is: ‘if you want the ultimate thrill, you have to pay the ultimate price.’ But what, we ask, is the ultimate price?

This is a film for the boys and the girls. The car chases are awesome, the explosions are massive (and the actors never look back at them because otherwise that would be very uncool). Surfing, romance, beach swept hair and concentrated expressions, chases on-foot with guns, fences and flying dogs (no, seriously) what more could you ask for? But, can our Johnny Utah survive the ultimate adrenaline breaking point? Watch and find out.

Ps. Warning: this film WILL make you want to grab a surf board and check out the waves, whether you can stay on the darn thing or not.

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