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Friday, September 27, 2013

Point Break 1991 * * * Stars

The above picture is the movie poster of Point BreakDirector: Kathryn Bigelow
Year: 1991
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Gary Busey, Lori Petty

Kathryn Bigelow was a different director back in 1991. Before the success of The Hurt Locker (2009) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012), she was making films that weren't deemed Academy Award worthy. She was cutting her teeth with raw unflinching action flicks like Blue Steel (1989) and this screw loose guilty pleasure known as Point Break. I've seen it many times and honestly it just never gets old. It belongs in a time capsule. Point Break represents a lot of beliefs I have about the possibility of what an action film can be because it goes completely over the top and throws everything in it but the kitchen sink. Yes, it's a movie that is choppy in shape and form. But it has bombastic originality along with a handful of important jaw dropping key scenes that make up for its shortcomings. Initially, when I first set foot in the theater over 20 years ago for my first screening of Point Break, I was dumbfounded. I was completely taken aback by the casting (Keanu Reeves, Gary Busey, Patrick Swayze), the plot, and the fact that the initial viewing left me cold, like I had seen a film that an average audience would stay away from (the theater was small, it was Friday night, and there were 8-10 people in the seats). Over time, I've grown to surrender to Point Break's giddiness as full blown cinema. It stands the test of time and breaks every film making rule in the book. You think the director, the stars, or the production staff cared, well they didn't. I have one word for these people, bravo!

The story begins with our hero, Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves in a his first starring action film role) entering his first day as a FBI agent in sunny Los Angeles. Right away, he gets paired with an over the hill aging veteran named Angelo Papas (played with improv overload by the likable Gary Busey). The two of them team up to try and catch a group of bank robbers who may or may not be surfers. Oh and I almost forgot, they also dress up as the ex-presidents with masks and all, only taking money out of the cash registers (apparently the vault takes too much time). Throughout the full running time of two pulse pounding hours, Reeves character befriends a local named Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) and romances a spunky surfer girl Tyler Endicott (Lori Petty) all the while going undercover and bruising his "whoooaaa" like ego in the process. I'm not gonna lie, his performance demands attention. As a actor, he tends to be as wooden as aged oak but he's likable in "Break." Bigelow saw something in Reeves that I think most directors would have dismissed as a veritable disaster. But she gave him his shot and he went on to shine later in Speed and the Matrix movies. Also, the pairing of Busey and Reeves as law enforcement associates is something I initially thought was some kind of nocturnal joke, but it works. Busey, with his purly white fanged teeth, runs amok with this character and becomes Utah's scary, perverse uncle. As the movie takes a lot of trippy twists and turns, the two of them form a friendship based on polar opposite attraction. It's the key to the film I think because ultimately it's a buddy cop yarn just like Lethal Weapon (1987) and 48 Hours (1982).

Buddy cops movies aside, Point Break is pure adrenaline and has a harrowing intensity that shows in three key scenes: the sting operation of a drug house followed by mistaken identity, the skydiving scene with no parachutes, and the apprehension of the villain in Austrailia's nastiest waters. I can say that a cult following this flick garnished, is well deserved. Kathyrn Bigelow, a maverick back then and an Academy darling now, deserves praise for this early 90's endeavor. She directed Point Break with reckless abandon and I'm proud to say it owns a special place in my eccentric collection of well worn DVDs.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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