PopWatch Rewind Week 2: 'Point Break'
by Darren Franich and Keith Staskiewicz
Surfers are dangerous. They have their own language. They carry automatic weapons. They look like the grunge-rock children of hippie communists. They do a mean Reagan impression. These are but a few of the lessons learned in Point Break, this week’s video-store necessity. (We are discussing it in honor of fellow bank robbery flick Takers.)
Directed by Hurt Locker auteur Kathryn Bigelow, Point Break is a great action movie…and an even better romance. Surfing, skydiving, gun-play, and more thinly-veiled homoeroticism than a frat house watching 300. If you love this movie half as much as we do, you still love it an infinite amount. Because half of infinity is infinity. So ride the beast with us here and then head over to the gnarly comments section and share your own thoughts.
Keith Staskiewicz: Johnny Utah joins the FBI straight out of school. Gets assigned his first case: The Ex-Presidents, a gang of bank robbers. While on the job, he accidentally gets a bunch of other surfers who are not involved in the case killed. He befriends the actual robbers, and becomes an accomplice in a holdup in which an off-duty police officer and security guard are killed. He gets his girlfriend kidnapped, his partner murdered, and lets the bad guys get away.
Darren Franich: He then spends about a year — and apparently thousands of federal dollars — tracking the lead bad guy across the world. He finds him in Australia, calls in what looks to be half of the Australian National Guard…and then lets him commit surf-icide! Just to add punctuation to this string of calamity – the worst-handled case in FBI history – he proudly throws away his badge! To recap: No one in custody, no one arrested, many dead, I quit.
KS: I think he just came to the realization: “I’m an incompetent FBI agent. Everything I do just makes things worse.”
DF: Besides Point Break, Keanu Reeves was in two other movies in 1991: My Own Private Idaho and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. Three movies that couldn’t be more different: a surf-heist action movie, an art-house gay interpretation of Henry IV, and movie in which two terrible guitar players play Battleship with Death.
KS: In a way, though, aren’t they all gay interpretations of Henry IV? There is so much overt homoeroticism in Point Break. It’s not subtext, it’s not even text, it’s supertext.
DF: “Are we gonna jump or jerk off?”
KS: The entire plot hinges on a Telltale Butt: When one of the bank robbers moons the camera, Gary Busey concludes that they must be surfers…because of the tan. About halfway through the movie, Johnny Utah watches Swayze surfing with his buddies. One of them pulls down his swim trunks. Swayze goes, “Oh, yeeeaahh!” in slow motion, with a look of pure joy on his face. Close-up on Keanu Reeves’ realizing-face: It’s the same butt! Two important plot points, one memorable posterior.
DF: When Patrick Swayze is jumping out of the airplane over Mexico, he flashes Johnny Utah a passionate glance, and says, "I know you want me so bad, it’s like acid in your mouth."
KS: And there’s the scene where Johnny Utah is trying to shoot Swayze. He can’t do it. Instead, he moans sexually and fires an entire round into the air. (See: Hot Fuzz.) It helps that Reeves and Swayze have a weird amount of chemistry in the movie – definitely more than Reeves and Lori Petty, the nominal love interest. By the way, do you realize that a single human being was in Point Break, Speed, and The Matrix? That combined amount of kick-ass is like Bruce Lee wrestling a bear down a waterfall.
DF: He was in three of the best action movies of the ’90s. I’m actually inclined to put Point Break above those other two movies, because the action sequences in this movie are incredible. The attack on the neo-nazis is great: A naked chick stabbing people, Anthony Kiedis shooting himself in the foot, and Tom Sizemore as a undercover cop in a drug den.
KS: And since this was only 1991, that wasn’t suspicious. Then there’s the on-foot chase scene. It starts with Patrick Swayze in a tuxedo and a Ronald Reagan mask, on fire, fighting Keanu Reeves. They chase each other down back-alleys, over fences, and through houses. Swayze slams shut a glass door and locks it, and without even a beat, Keanu Reeves just breaks it and crashes through. And then Swayze throws a pitbull in his face!
DF: Do you know who was originally supposed to play Johnny Utah? Matthew Broderick. In one fell swoop, you would have just halved the awesomeness of this movie. Matthew Broderick would have made the understandable mistake of reading his lines as if they were words intended to be said by a human being, as opposed to Keanu Reeves, who puts the perfect, exactly wrong emphasis on everything.
KS: Point Break is one of the weird cases of nepotism that actually worked. James Cameron was the executive producer when Ridley Scott was attached to direct. But Scott had to back out, so James Cameron was like, “What about my wife?” And, as it turned out, she was perfect.
DF: Kathryn Bigelow makes movies about men. Evangeline Lilly is basically the only woman in The Hurt Locker. And she’s only there to be a bored wife back home, who boringly symbolizes how boring life is at home with women. So Kathryn Bigelow’s thesis is: Dudes should just make out with each other.
KS: So many of Kathryn Bigelow’s protagonists are male, and so many of James Cameron’s protagonists are female. They’re almost like perfect matches for each other. She explores the homoerotic side of men, and he explores the more masculine, macho side of women. Together, they destroy all sense of gender.
DF: Is Point Break the story of the James Cameron-Kathryn Bigelow marriage?
KS: James Cameron is Patrick Swayze, Kathryn Bigelow is Johnny Utah. “You want me so bad it’s like acid in your mouth.” But it was not to be, a doomed romance. By the time Point Break came out on VHS, their marriage was over.