With the reboot of Point Break on the horizon, I’ve decided to make a public announcement of my love for the original. If I could elope to Vegas and have a shotgun marriage with the original 1991 VHS copy my sister bought for me, then I would do it quicker than you could say, “Guess you don’t get to be President today”.
I love Point Break. I mean really love Point Break. A love that doesn’t deplete or ask for anything in return. A deep love that has grown a little bit more each and every time I’ve watched it. Which is a lot. A love that if, back in 1991, I had a driver’s licence, the financial means to buy surfing equipment and didn’t live in a landlocked Essex town, I would have learnt how to surf and skydive and order shrimp and fries every day.
While true love – which this is – needs no qualification or explanation, just this once I will endeavour to rationalise my lifelong love affair with Point Break.
By the way, if you think this blog is too long, my bottomless pit of Point Break opinion could have made it far, far longer.
1. THE CATCHPHRASES
From Johnny Utah’s “I caught my first tube today, sir,” to Pappas’ scream-fest “Listen you snot-nosed little shit, I was takin’ shrapnel in Khe Sanh when you were crappin’ in your hands and rubbin’ it on your face,” this film is utterly jam-packed with some of the most incredible and quotable lines ever committed to celluloid. I would argue that I spent at least 73% of my time at school either quoting this film, Total Recall or Predator.
Here’s just a small selection of my favourite sound bites, which I have lovingly given their own names:
“Utah, gimme two.”
The Chilli Pepper:
“That would be a waste of time.”
“You think I like this hair? You think I like these clothes?”
The Blue Flame Special:
“Sir, I take the skin off chicken.”
“Little hand says it’s time to rock and roll.”
The Fucking Wake-Up Call:
“This is your fucking wake-up call Bohdi. I am an FBI agent”
The Sweeping Generalisation:
“Surfing is for little rubber people who don’t shave yet.”
2. THE CHARACTER ACTORS
From psychotic drug-dealing death squad surfers to DEA agents so deep undercover they haven’t showered for weeks, one of the elements that raises Point Break above standard action fare is the wide-range of supporting character actors who make every second of screen time count and, as listed in point 1, are often responsible for some of the film’s most quotable lines.
Angelo Pappas played by Gary Busey
Gary Busey who’s off-screen antics and eccentricities do nothing to detract from his larger than life ‘lazy FBI has-been with one last fight in him’, Angelo Pappas. Showing the out of shape Pappas in swimming shorts with the line “I got no idea what a blind man fetching bricks from the bottom of a pool has to do with being a special agent” perfectly introduces the audience to our protagonist’s new partner.
Agent Deets played by Tom Sizemore
He may only be on screen for a few minutes, but with his incendiary performance screaming “You think I like these clothes, you think I like this hair!”, he utterly steals the scene while both Utah and Pappas stare on helplessly. Never has someone used the line “Three months, THREE MONTHS” more effectively. I still feel sorry for Agent Deets.
Tone played by Anthony Keidis
Apart from yelping when being beaten up by Patrick Swayze, Keidis delivers his one line “That would be a waste of time” with all the swagger of The Red Chilli Peppers rolled into one. A bit part that could have been wasted with a traditional delivery makes this moment unforgettable.
Ben Harp played by John C McGinley
What is an FBI department without an angry senior officer? John C McGinley as FBI agent Ben Harp transcends police clichés with anger levels that make you believe he will spontaneously combust, right there on screen. I would love to hear Harp and Deets argue – Harp screaming “Squat, SQUAT” – and Deets howling – “Three Months, THREE MONTHS”.
3. THE ACTION
Point Break is so much more than your average action film, but it is an action film and a superior one at that.
Each action sequence in Point Break showed Kathryn Bigelow to be the visionary director that she’s now widely known to be. None of the action sequences revert to or rely upon lazy tropes and each one adds to the development of the plot and in some way subverts the genre.
Take Utah’s pursuit of Bohdi (one of my favourite chase sequences ever) which starts with meatball sandwiches, quickly leaves the traditional car-chase setting and ends up running through people’s back gardens and even into their houses. Bigelow’s fast paced, hand-held, claustrophobic directorial style keeps the action tense and immediate and reminiscent of the incredible Tangiers rooftop chase scene from ‘The Borne Ultimatum’.
This scene is just one of many awesome sequences that never feel like action for the sake of action. The house-raid scene sees Keanu Reeves beaten up by a lady in high heels and then nearly killed with a lawnmower. This is not the work of someone ticking ‘traditional action’ boxes. Don’t even get me started on the American football scene on the beach where Utah chases Bohdi into the surf and tackles him – which is a clear premonition of the journey these characters are about to go on.
4. THIS IS NO TALE OF GOOD VS. EVIL
None of the characters are polarised into moral extremes. Our assumed protagonist, Johnny Utah, will do anything to “get his guy” including lying to everyone – including the woman he grows to love, the same woman who is not mentioned in the final scene, suggesting he may have forsaken the relationship in the endless pursuit of his own ultimate rush – catching Bohdi. Swayze’s Bohdi is by no means the typical bad guy – a spiritual guide to Utah enlightening him on the transcendental aspects of surfing and taking Johnny under his wing. Before Bohdi disregarded his own rule and got his crew killed, he referred to his bank-robbing as justified as “The money’s insured so it’s not worth dying for.”
This is no tale of good vs. evil. This is a tale of journeys and redemption.
5. EVERYONE IS ON A JOURNEY
This film isn’t just about Johnny Utah and his journey from ‘quarter-back punk’, ‘blue-flame special’ to shaggy haired, denim wearing, super-wave fan, this film features many people who follow their own distinctive narrative arc. Tyler initially goes from Wild Child to being attracted to the illusion of straight-laced lawyer-cum-rookie surfer. Angelo Pappas begins the film having basically given up on life and then gets his one last shot at ‘nailing’ the ex-presidents. Bohdi spirals from spiritually grounded beach-prophet to a desperate man rushing towards the ultimate ride. Even the wider supporting cast perhaps had lessons to learn. Did Agent Deets learn to stay home with his family more? Harp to respect his elders? Bunker to not go around punching yuppie-insects who jump in on his wave?
Ultimately, this film was about Bohdi and Johnny – and their journeys ended the only way they could – with Bohdi catching the ultimate ride and Utah getting his guy.