Point Break is the quintessential American movie. Sure, you watch it now and it’s easy to notice some of ridiculousness of the plot, characters, and setting, but if you grew up in the ’90s, it is scripture. Coming out of the excess and gluttony of the ’80s, the philosophy of Bodhi and his tribe rang true. It was – and maybe still is – the source. It’s an action movie, no doubt, but it’s also a karmic journey of two bros who discover, despite all the violence and divisions of their lives, that they are not so different. See you on the other side, Johnny.
The basic plot of the film – a rookie FBI agent goes undercover in the surfing community to find a group of bankers robbers called the Ex-Presidents – leads to a lot of people dismissing this film. It’s unfairly written off as a joke and often ignored in the pantheon of great action movies. Point Break is better than that and it deserves our admiration. It deserves a place among the greats.
Kathryn Bigelow’s directing is one of the movie’s greatest strengths. Watching Point Break, it’s no surprise that she would go on to win an Academy Award for Best Director (the first woman to receive such an honor). The scene where Utah chases Bodhi through houses and alleyways is a true work of art; you feel the frantic intensity and the desperation. Bigelow would go on to direct some amazing and important films, but I still think this one is her masterpiece. Point Break still, nearly 25 years later, looks amazing.
There are so many memorable moments throughout the movie. From the look of the Ex-Presidents to jumping out of an airplane with nothing more than a revolver to the infamous firing of a gun into the air in frustration, Point Break is filled to the brim with awesomeness. The last scene between Utah and Bodhi on the shores of Australia is amazing, one of the best endings to an action movie ever. It ties everything up, brings the characters full circle. It’s just the right amount of ridiculous, Bodhi catching that last wave and Utah tossing his badge into the ocean. It’s a thing of beauty, really.
Of course, if Point Break belongs to anybody, it’s Patrick Swayze. As Bodhi, he owns every second he’s on screen. You can see the pain in his eyes when everything falls apart, when his battle against society hurts everyone around him. There’s sincerity to the character, a honesty you can just feel. When he tells you surfing is the source, you believe it. Growing up, I wanted to be Bodhi, and he’s the bad guy. His charisma is just too much to resist. There’s a tortured soul to Bodhi, a struggle that I could really relate to as a kid (and sometimes as an adult). Swayze had some fantastic roles during his career, but Point Break is his best.
Keanu Reeves is still finding his groove at this time, but the role of Utah is tailor-made for him. Utah is a guy trying to figure out who he is in the world, a guy with a confident smile and swagger that hides his own confusion and insecurity. In Bodhi, he sees himself, a vision of who he could have been. In some ways he’s jealous, in others, angry. The contrast between the two actors and characters is the heart of Point Break. They are both consumed by a vision — Bodhi the wave, Utah the law — and their vision gets those around them hurt, scarred, and killed. It’s fitting that, in the end, they find themselves literally chained together, handcuffed by destiny. Their paths are joined.
There’s tons more we could talk about. Gary Busey is amazing, Lori Petty is magical, and so on. For now, I think our time would be better spent watching Point Break. It’s a movie that captures the American Dream, and the flaws and dangers within that seemingly obtainable visage. Forget the soon to be released remake and focus on the majesty and brilliance of the original. Spend some time with the Ex-Presidents, the little hand says it’s time to rock and roll. Vaya con Dios.