[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B004MW57HS][/pullquote] To pigeon-hole Point Break would be to call it an undercover-surfing-crime-drama-action film, and while that sounds ridiculous, it is an accurate way to describe what on paper should be a ridiculous film. Director Kathryn Bigelow was given the job after it was rejected by Ridley Scott and she was joined by her then husband, James Cameron on executive producer. Originally titled Johnny Utah after its lead character, the title changed from Riders on the Storm before eventually settling on Point Break.
Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) is an undercover FBI agent sent to crack the mystery of a group of bank robbers called The Dead Presidents. His partner Pappas (Gary Busey) has a theory that they are surfers, so Utah begins learns how to surf and infiltrates a group lead by the nomadic and hippy-styled Bodhi (Patrick Swayze). As he becomes more ingrained in the group, he begins to lose sight of his case and is forced to choose between duty and the free-spirited lifestyle that he has grown to love.
Bigelow is an interesting director, always taking chances with scripts that could be shown a number of ways, but always bringing her own high-octane approach. Like the best action film directors, she is able to create a sense of full-throttle, adrenaline-pumping action throughout her films. Even when it’s a slower, more dramatic moment she is able to create tension and establish the need for action and this is never more evident than in Point Break.
The obvious scenes like car chases and the actual surfing are done with aplomb, switching between slow-motion and high-speed with casual ease, but it’s the unexpected action scenes that seperate Point Break from the more testosterone-fulled action films of the time. The finest examples are a fast-paced foot chase ending with the now iconic scene of Utah firing his pistol in the air (parodied wonderfully in Hot Fuzz) and the single tracking shot of Bodhi leaping from a plane, which without the use of stuntmen creates a real sense of danger and excitment.
Bigelow’s characters, wonderfully realised by Reeves and Swayze are not action heroes like a Schwarzenegger or a Stallone, but rather philosophical creatures whose actions stem from their beliefs and a desire to catch ‘the ultimate rush.’ Point Break still has the ability to drift into the absurd however, and let’s not forget that this is a surfer action film. But the sometimes sketchy dialogue and psuedo-profound elements of the script are safely handled by the two leads, who might well be playing exaggerated versions of their true selfs.
A true classic of the action genre, Point Break is as exciting, entertaining and amusing as it was on release. In Swayze and Reeves it has a central pairing that are charismatic and engaging and if nothing else you’ll finish the film wishing you were a little more carefree, just like them.