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Saturday, 3 March 2018

Retro Review: Point Break (1991)

Point Break
Cast: Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Gary Busey, Lori Petty, John C. McGinley
Genre: Action Crime Thriller
Worldwide box office gross: over $83 million

Plot: An FBI agent goes undercover to catch a group of surfers who may be bank robbers

'Didn't Make Waves For Me'

For all of the talk of Kathryn Bigelow, she has been a hit-&-miss director for most people - she underwhelmed with Blue Steel, did fab with Strange Days and garnered positive praise & plaudits for The Hurt Locker and Near Dark. She also received mixed responses for 2017's Detroit, which unfortunately missed out on/was robbed of an Oscar nomination. I feel as though with Point Break, it is slightly leaning towards Blue Steel, as far as suspending your disbelief goes with the idiocy of the conception of the plot and story, but it is also a tad better than 1990's feminist cop offering starring Jamie Lee Curtis. But that isn't saying much, as Point Break is f
ar from the nitty-gritty, high-octane wave after wave action that subsumes the film and one that it has been touted as. 

Cited as the movie that marked Keanu Reeves's first major dramatic role, Point Break has Johnny Utah, who is a former American football quarterback now FBI agent & he is partnered up with fellow agent, Angelo Pappas (a gruff Gary Busey), who he, himself has been on the trail of some bank robbers. Utah then goes undercover and infiltrates the tight-knit group of surfer robbers led by a guy by the name of Bodhi (Patrick Swayze), who don masks of former U.S presidents in disguise and under their name of 'The Ex-Presidents'. Along the way, Utah falls for the girl, who was the ex-girlfriend of Bodhi's. 

With executive producer and Bigelow's then-husband, James Cameron, who has honed greats in Terminator 2, Aliens, True Lies, Point Break was Kathryn Bigelow's second attempt at carving out an overly decent cop-based crime flick, after faltering with 1990's Blue Steel

Before we had Set It Off (which was fantastic), there was Point Break as bank heist crime movies go. And both this film and Point Break had co-star John C. McGinley operating on the same side of the law. 

& whilst Johnny Utah may not be as incompetent as Jamie Lee Curtis's Megan Turner, he's as prone to making just as many mistakes as her. Point Break is just fallible in its naivety as is Bigelow's Blue Steel

Bigelow may know how to direct action, but as far as storytelling goes, sometimes or most of the time, she disappoints the viewers by bombarding the movie with silly plot twists or obscene moments that take him/her away from the viewing experience. I also noticed that her films have a very visually striking look, or be it she seems to focus a lot on the aesthetics and look of the setting, the characters. Watching this film, I just don't see how this has such a high rating on IMDb. Bigelow as ever employs such techniques as slow-motion sequences, which are shot extremely well. 

As the action goes, this is mostly sparse, but one example of this is the house raid by the FBI agents, which I thought was good. But otherwise, it lacks the intensity and grit to help generate thrills and excitement. Then first-time writer W.Peter Liff has some ideas, but the execution renders them naive. The storyline isn't developed well. The surfing backdrop was quite different, but Bigelow just didn't do enough to make it more appealing towards non-surfers and non-surfing enthusiasts. 

Keanu Reeves isn't great in this and I'm sure he is a nice guy in real-life, but the only movie I still enjoyed his performance in was Speed with Sandra Bullock, where he played a good guy cop, but Jack wasn't anywhere as corny as Johnny was. He came off like Ted of Bill & Ted. Meanwhile, Patrick Swayze's career in the 1990s never soared to the same heights as it did in the 1980s, thanks to Dirty Dancing and to a lesser extent, Roadhouse, which I enjoyed. & here, his character Bodi wasn't as significant as a character as I'd expected. Gary Busey is not so effective as Johnny's crime partner and somehow, he and Keanu Reeves look mismatched. Red Hot Chilli Peppers' lead singer, Anthony Kiedis also has a cameo role as one of the junkies who Keanu's Johnny beats up. 

I suppose I am just another one of those people still scratching my head as to how Point Break has attained cult status over the years and again, like with so many others, how it manages to have a high IMDb aggregate score. It just never wowed me - and movies that have been widely praised and acclaimed need to do that. But on so many occasions, I have been left underwhelmed. & the ending was disappointing, it pretty much summed up how letdown I was by Point Break.  

Point Break has 1 or 2 memorable moments, not to mention one speeding car chase and is competently well-made by Bigelow, yet not much else besides that. The dialogue is also occasionally terrible. 

Also for a film that centres around Bodhi and Johnny Utah - not Bravo (a name so ludicrous), we don't see much of Bodhi and his cronies on screen. Far from revelationary, this is actually rather generic, as a whole.

Final Verdict:

The script, much like with Blue Steel, is a bit shambolic & all over the place as Bigelow revels in going over-the-top, whilst bringing out the glossy aesthetics of the movie. But the ending was practically awful and whereas for some people, Point Break hasn't stood the test of time for them as they rewatch it today, for a first-timer like myself who just saw this original version of Point Break, it just doesn't quite live up to all that hype that it generated back in the early 1990s. 

Hardly explosive and ultimately flat in its story, and as dumb as it was, I would have still got through it, had the film been entertaining. But it wasn't, it was mostly mundane & Bigelow just wasn't able to hold it all together as it splutters its way to the end.

It may be a cult classic, but from my viewing experience, it never offered more which was good to fully warrant that distinction. 

If you want to watch a Keanu Reeves movie, stick with Speed and a Patrick Swayze film, go with, erm, Dirty Dancing (which I'm not keen on) or Roadhouse. This is far from a high point in their careers, from my point of view, anyway. 

Point Break can be fun, but it is also a film that is a bit too daft that it lets itself in for. 


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