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Film Club: Point Break

Friday 23 August 2013, 16:46

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

The latest title in the Kermode Uncut Film Club is Kathryn Bigelow's brilliant surfing heist movie. Watch the intro and the movie and let me know what you think of my choice.

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    Comment number 1.

    Point Break is as much about surfing as Tinker Tailor is about spying. This is for me one THE defining films about men. It deals with friendship, the awkwardness of early relationships, the yearning for a father figure and the hatred of the 'Man'.
    Yes the action sequences are astonishingly shot but they serve a greater purpose, to show how 'Macho' men must be to fit in. The moment they realise that Johnny (Reeves) was the all star QuarterBack they immediately respect him and accept him.
    The truly great moments are the interactions between Swayze and Reeves (I just wish their were more of them), and the closest I can think of someone else understanding the pressures of being just a guy was John Hughes with the Breakfast Club.......

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    Comment number 2.

    I'm a student of film at Essex university and found the attitude of my friends to be rather snooty towards Point Break and i have had countless arguments with people dismissing it as silly and a brainless action film. I find this to be entirely unfair to the film which i think suffers from being an 80's action film and being placed in the same category as the countless action movies of that period. Point Break stands above those films because of its interesting characters and brilliantly shot action scenes, the characters in the film are revealed to be the same on both sides, Utah is the opposite side to Bodhi, he is just as willing to go the extra step to get his man but does it in the pursuit of justice rather than thrills. A brilliant film and one that remains one of, if not my favorite film ever.

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    Comment number 3.

    i love it when your film club includes films i love - this is easily in my top 20 of all time

    surprise you didn't mention strange days - i love strange days

    the film 'heat' wishes it was not that 'heat' is a bad film

    the quotes are timeless - THIS IS YOUR WAKE UP CALL MAN I AM AN FBI AGENT!!

    Yes! - your surf board bothers me! Yes! - your approach to this whole damn case bothers me! And yes! - YOU BOTHER ME!

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    Comment number 4.

    Kathryn Bigelow's Point Break aka Ridley Scott's Johnny Utah is a film I never really liked. I'm sorry to disappoint but surfers are just some of the scorn of the earth. The spectacle is sensational, but the characters are just irritating. The appalling dialogue is probably down to the fact that her then husband James Cameron, who was also the films executive producer, had a hand in polishing the script and even though Swayze may have been the scene stealer, for me its the notorious Gary Busey who deserves some attention. His performance as the comic relief is fantastic, and I for one was deeply moved by his outcome.

    Point Break, and Near Dark maybe some of Bigelow's best work, but I'm surprised no one remembers the film she did between those two films which was the Jamie Lee Curtis vehicle Blue Steel. The style that Bigelow perfected in Point Break began with the dark and moody streets of New York and the film is very much a character study of how determination becomes undone by the events that unfold. Its a shame that Blue Steel, which was produced by Oliver Stone, has remained buried for so long and its the Bigelow film that should be ripe for rediscovery.

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    Comment number 5.

    I was 13 in 1991 when Point Break was released and i remember as if it was yesterday my excitement about seeing it. I went to the cinema 4 times to watch it and was blown away by the imagery used in the film, particularly the crashing waves and the on foot chase sequence. A film with a well deserved 'cult' status and certainly a film you'll rarely hear people say a bad word about. I would love to see it on the big screen again.

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    Comment number 6.

    Point Break is a superb film and I'm glad to see it getting some Kermode love. I thought you would have taken the opportunity to note that it also features Gary Busey -- a.k.a. Buddy Holly from "Buddy" -- long before he became internet meme* shorthand for "mad as a box of frogs"...

    I think this would make for quite an interesting double feature with a personal favourite of mine: "White Men Can't Jump". To my mind, one of the best buddy comedies of the 90s; neither Wesley Snipes nor Woody Harrelson have been better since...

    (*) http://cdn0.dailydot.com/uploaded/images/original/2013/1/18/busey.gif or search for "gary busey hand gif" for an example

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    Comment number 7.

    Copied many times, but never bettered.

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    Comment number 8.

    A great choice Mark and a great movie.

    Every Sunday aged 11 when the trip to the Video Box came around it was Point Break every week for about 6 months and as with any film with characters at its heart, it stands the test of time no problem. Keanu Reeves' acting style coming in perfectly handy for once with the character of Utah. A hand held foot chase scene that hasn't really been bettered since, and in agreement with jordanc123, lost in the slew of 80s/90s action films, as such never really recognised for being something a bit more than that. Hell with it, I'm sticking it on right now. Nice.

    "Came across an unclaimed piece of meat in Baha.... turned out to be the Fast and the Furious cinematographer and the Total Recall remake writer"

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    Comment number 9.

    I first got to see this in school at the end of term, must have been about 14 .
    I like that even though there aren't so many ticks on the critics checklist of ingredients for a classic film it does have a compelling quality that has made it last longer than other stuff deemed more worthy.

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    Comment number 10.

    Awesome choice but if you want another Swayze 'classic' then all hail Roadhouse. If either of these films turn up on the box then i'm in for the duration !!

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    Comment number 11.

    I was first shown Point Break last year at university by a friend who absolutely loved the film. Going in I was admittedly skeptical, surfers turned bank robbers? Ridiculous. How pleased I was when the film turned out to be an absolute joy. Break neck pace, stunning action sequences and some real depth in the relationships between the lead characters.

    However it was Swayze who stole the show and watching the film reminds me of how talented an actor he truly was. If you're going to cast Keanu Reeves then you need to stellar performer alongside him to keep the film in check, and Swayze was the man for the job.

    Patrick Swayze... legend.

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    Comment number 12.

    Point Break, Yes Mark I love it as much as you do. (Below contains spoilers.)
    This is Bigalow’s defining film for me. Near Dark isn’t as good; better than Near Dark is Strange Days, a bit too disturbing for many.

    Hurt Locker & Zero Dark 30 are both good (But Hurt Locker doesn't quite know how to end and is consequently 30 minutes too long.)

    I think Point Break is Bigalow at her best.

    Bigalow’s gritty, unafraid of being un-PC and prepared to let plot follow character interaction rather than genre conventions.

    No surprise that Hot Fuzz referenced Point Break as the defining mismatched bromance movie.
    Point Break is about friendship, admiration, hero worship, discovering a different lifestyle and excitement, acceptance – and about disillusionment, divided loyalties, betrayal - and characters defining the similarities and differences between themselves.

    I guess most adults have experienced this [perhaps more so if you've been involved in adrenalin sports; perhaps why surfers etc. like it so much], if not in as extreme circumstances as depicted in Point Break.
    The ending stays true to the film’s ethos; most directors would have ended with a shootout, Point Break ends with Reeves allowing Swayze to swim out to sea to die, but staying free, doing what Swayze’s character loves best.

    The action sequences that most people remember (parachutes & surfing) are no longer remarkable due to YouTube and helmet cams; but Point Break’s central chase scenes are - through alleys, kitchens, over fences; all followed using steadycam.
    Cast wise I think many gave career best performances; Swayze and Busey in particular.

    Reeves is often dismissed as being bland, yet he has Point Break, Matrix, Speed and Bill and Ted to his credit and keeps reinventing himself (e.g forthcoming: Man of Tai Ch, 37 Ronin.).

    As an actor Reeves picks more interesting projects and takes more risks than say, Johnny Depp does.

    In Gus Van Sant’s ‘My Own Private Idaho’, at a time when the late River Phoenix was flavour of the month, I thought Reeves gave the better performance.
    Idaho was also quite a brave choice for both Phoenix and Reeves too, given the film’s subject matter at the time.

    Back to Point Break, that ending. You just won’t see this type of character driven end to a movie nowadays: (Spoiler, this is the ending; then watch the movie from the start.)
    It is a classic.

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    Comment number 13.

    I saw 'Point Break' during it's initial run on Sky Movies back in the early 90's... and it just absolutely floored me! Thrilling, visceral, kinetic, yet with (as you rightly said Mark) a soul at it's center, what a film!

    Say what you want about Kathryn Bigelow, but she's going to be remembered as one of the very best directors of her generation and a trailblazer in regards to women in the action cinema sphere... plus she was robbed, ROBBED I tells ya, of a Best Director Oscar for 'Zero Dark Thirty' in another shameless display by the Academy of politics trumping merit (as Mickey Rourke would undoubtedly tell you)...

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    Comment number 14.

    I first saw this film just before I left school in '93. I'd spent time at a school I hated and was unable to be myself due to pressure to follow trends I didn't like and having a group of friends who could be quite cruel.. Secretly I was discovering more alternative art forms such as the Seattle rock music scene (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nirvana etc), which back then was still truly alternative in this country at least. So of course a film that was a perfect fit for this mood was Point Break. Pounding action, great character moments and thrilling adrenaline sequences that make you want to be there with them.

    The blossoming friendship between them was interesting and moving (something you don't see nowadays in modern action films) but this gives it more impact when things start to go wrong later.

    One of my favourite scenes was the beach party. When Johnny arrives they are playing my favourite Jimi Hendrix song (If 6 was 9) then they have a great conversation round the camp fire about what it all means to be a surfer before going on a midnight wave ride!

    I would also give a special mention to Bodhi's friends as they are very likable, cool and clearly developed a rappor together before shooting.

    Also I agree about the ending - it was the best way they could have done it (except for some cheesy dialogue from Reeves). Swayze steals the show of course playing his role with the most confidence and after all the questionable things he's done you still want him to ride to glory. His desperation for being let loose from the handcuffs was brilliantly played with my favorite line: "where am i gonna go man?? I'm not gonna paddle to New Zealand"!

    So yes, a defining film for me and my teenage years and it still stands up today.

    RIP Patrick Swayze

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    Comment number 15.

    Point Break has been something of a gulity pleasure of mine.

    I've always to seethe Point Break play where to try and capture the essence of Reeve's performance in the film they pick a random member of the audience who has no chance to rehearse and has to read his lines off cue cards. It sounds absolutely hilarious http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_Break_Live!

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    Comment number 16.

    I *loved* this film when I was a teenager, guns, heists, skydiving and, living in the surfy south west I could imagine north Cornwall was the action packed west coast.

    But, having watched it again recently the reasons I loved it back in the day are reasons I blanche a bit at it now.... cringeworthy dialogue, stock 2D characters (surfer dudes, stuck up boss, "preppy" colleagues, erm... Gary Busey?), a *preposterous* plot (are these guys *really* so elusive that the FBI cannot possibly trace them? Really???) and, characteristic of Kathryn Bigelow's early work, non-existent substantial women characters.

    A curious choice Mark, although top marks as always for not going for the obvious "cult classics". But, for the record, I would have preferred Big Wednesday (...or near dark for that matter...)

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    Comment number 17.

    You have made my day Mark. I love Point Break. I love big silly macho 90s action films and Point Break is one of my favourites. Reeves is perfectly cast as a dumb headed FBI agent. Reeves is always stilted sometimes it works (The Matrix) Sometimes it doesn't (Johnny Mnemonic) But as you said Swayze is the heart and soul of the film. I like Swayze a great deal. I always find him incredibly watchable in everything but in Point Break. He is Bodhi. You believe everything he says. You get behind him. And you want him to get away with it. His fate is still one of my favourite endings to an action film ever. Because it isn't just Good guy vs Bad guy showdown but between two friends. Who have deep amount of love and respect for each other. I think Bigelow is a great director. Of course Near Dark is great and so is the very underrated Strange Days (Watch Johnny Mnemonic and Strange Days back to back and you realise how a good Cyberpunk film is) Her chops for action scenes are terrific. Gary Busey is wonderful too. A complete nutter but I love watching him in everything. I love the macho dialogue. Its part of its early 90s DNA. With Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers turning up as a evil surfer. Metallica posters and the Grunge explosion. But most of all its fun as hell. The foot chase is up there with Friedkin's work in French Connection and To Live and Die In L.A as some of the best chase scenes captured on film. But as you said Mark. The film isn't just about action. It has characters, it has a soul. Something alot of action films these days don't have. I have seen it loads of times. And I will continue to watch it again and again and again. I just love the early 90s atmosphere it has. I have only seen Point Break on TV. I would love to see it on the big scene because the Sky diving parts are stunning. Even my mom who loves Patrick Swayze really liked this film because its so entertaining.

    Says it all. The most macho film ever made was directed by a women.

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    Comment number 18.

    What can you say about Point Break that hasn't already been said, it is a brilliant cult film, and one of Keanu Reeves best performances (probably only outdone by the original Matrix). Hey and it has Anthony Keidis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers in it so what is not to like.

    It is a perfect film to watch on a cold Saturday afternoon in the rain... A day like today. Now I just have to remember where my DVD copy is.

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    Comment number 19.

    I watched this great movie for the first time when I was about 15 however the stand out viewing for me was an outdoor viewing on a big screen camping on the Island of Mykonos in 1994. I was living in Milan and I took the train down to Bari then the ferry to the Cyclades Islands. The first night on Mykonos they were showing this movie at the camp site - the sun was shining, the Aegean sea behind us and life was very, very good. One of my all time favourite memories.

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    Comment number 20.

    I always enjoy the trope in cop movies of the unreasonably angry boss, and John C. McGinley, who plays the FBI director, really commits 100% to that trope. So amazingly angry, and for so little reason!


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