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Action Sequences, Psychological Undertones & Spiritual Layers within Point Break

Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves
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Point Break


Action films in the realm of cinema have an uncanny and reliable have a way of thrilling and inspiring audiences. This consistent fashion of movie-making is a fulfilling component to any decade of silver-screen productions. There are many compelling and eclectic reasons to explain this phenomenon. One example is that the expertise of technology has allowed glimpses of human imagination to expand. Another possibility is that the art of physical prowess laced with adventure themes and combined with emotional challenges stirs most human senses. Viewers turn to the medium of cinema as a way to engage in identification and self-expression, but also as a way to experience things unfamiliar to them. Action movies are a format to materialize this precise vision.

Point Break was released to the public in the summer of 1991 and far exceeded its initial budget. It showcased interest as an action genre with a psychological pace in character construction as well as clever plot formation. It broadcasted an uplifting path of spiritual discovery yet a bleak outcome with the fate of some of its members. Vivid placement of stunts was the driving force of this tale. Rumors of a 2015 Hollywood re-make are currently translating into pre-production efforts.

Kathryn Bigelow was chosen as the director of Point Break and it marked her fourth spot at the helm of that role. Ridley Scott was the first choice but was ruled out quickly. As of today, Bigelow has directed nine films, with the most recent effort being Zero Dark Thirty (2012). She was married to another movie director, James Cameron, from 1989 to 1991.

Original titles of the film were dubbed Johnny Utah and Riders on the Storm, but both were dropped because producers felt they did not match the proper feel, theme and size of the overall storyline. Point Break was the concluding decision because it promoted attention to the central focus to all characters and events: surfing.

Actor Keanu Reeves was cast in the role of the film’s main protagonist, Johnny Utah. Matthew Broderick and Charlie Sheen were each considered initially to play Utah. Reeves had reached national notice just two years prior with his starring lead in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989). He would go on to please filmgoers in subsequent successful movies, such as: Speed (1994), The Devil’s Advocate (1997) and The Matrix (1999). He had to learn how to surf for this movie and continues it as a hobby to this day.

Actor Patrick Swayze was cast in the role of the film’s chief antagonist, Bodhi. Swayze had already established himself as a hit with audiences by his charming ability to shift between romantic leads and villainous characters. He received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actor just four years prior with Dirty Dancing (1987) and co-wrote a song for it, “She’s Like The Wind,” that hit number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. In the fall of 2009, Swayze had his life cut short at age fifty-seven due to pancreatic cancer. Swayze performed all of the skydiving stunts for his character.

Actress Lori Petty was cast in the role of romantic interest to Utah, named Tyler Endicott, who also held a past relationship with Bodhi. Petty had a spotty film career at best, but was noted for several important appearances in: A League Of Their Own (1992) and Free Willy (1993).

Actor Gary Busey was cast in the supporting role of Utah’s law enforcement sidekick, Angelo Pappas. He earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in the role of deceased singer, Buddy Holly, in The Buddy Holly Story (1978). He would star in the Stephen King-penned epic of Silver Bullet (1985) and had been a part of Lethal Weapon (1987).

Point Break opens with the arrival of a critical case plaguing the FBI and calling for direct intervention: bank robberies scattered around by a masked group of robbers calling themselves the ‘Ex-Presidents.’ Using the covered masks of Presidents Reagan, Nixon, Johnson and Carter, the gang is able to perform their deeds in a period of ninety seconds and do not involve time stealing money from the vaults. Instead, the group concentrates on taking available cash from the front counters and instilling fears of compromised security throughout the local city. Veteran agent Pappas (played with skillful humor and ferocity by Busey) suspects the culprits are experienced surfers. Rookie agent Utah (played with sensitivity and a hard-edged exterior by Reeves) accepts the theory of his partner and decides to go undercover to explore the surfing community and see what it brings. However, Utah is aware that his lack of knowledge with surfing could put him into danger as others around might not believe he is innocently entering the atmosphere.

In order to achieve successful infiltration and integration with the locals, Utah turns his attention right away toward Tyler (played with traces of vulnerability and intensity by Petty). Immediately the two find an emotional connection and romantic attraction between them. The spark grows as the girl reveals herself to be an orphan who has often felt disconnection with her personal world and the world around her. Utah, meanwhile, poses as an ex-college football player and keeps his FBI identity a secret. At the same time, Utah wants to be respectful and honorable by opening up about his real life in order to get closer assistance in tracking down the mysterious gang.

In the course of his adventures, Utah one day crosses paths with a wild yet intelligent surfer named Bodhi (played with a charisma in style and a mystery in behavior by Swayze). Bodhi is the leader of a local surfer group and considers each member to be a brother to him. Also, the man possesses a stern and deep interest rooted in spirituality and uses that as a guide in his principles and athletic techniques.

Pappas and Utah team up in a secret raid on a band of surfers that each are convinced is the ‘Ex-Presidents.’ Unfortunately, the information they discovered was wrong and the operation exposes their secret methods. Both men are discouraged and incensed afterwards. Each starts to wonder if the real gang will ever be noticed or caught. Utah privately ponders the possibility that his band of new friends could be the culprits for mayhem that he is seeking to apprehend. The evidence remains minuscule until he acts on instinct and catches them studying the outside location of a nearby bank.

Utah reports his findings to Pappas and suggests they act quickly. The elder agent is pleased to have a second chance at capturing his foes. Both arrive undetected in their vehicle and wait patiently for the events to unfold. The results turn out as planned and the ‘Ex-Presidents’ rush into the bank and begin their robbery. Utah races out of his car and goes after the leader of the gang: dressed as President Reagan. Reagan is none-other-than Bodhi and is startled when he sees his friend give pursuit. The two race through the local neighborhood and neither show signs of letting up on speed. Bigelow weaves the moments together through fast-paced action scene cuts and close-ups on the profiles of both men. Reagan manages to outwit his adversary by leaping into a dry aqueduct. Utah jumps after his prey but is brought to injury when his fall causes a previous knee injury in football days to reappear. He retrieves his gun and prepares to fire at the robber, but is unable to pull the trigger when he locks eyes with the man. As a result, Bodhi is able to get away and Utah is left screaming and firing bullets helplessly into the air above.

In a haunting scene by campfire on the beach, Bodhi addresses his group of surfers and discusses the situation surrounding Utah. All feel betrayed by their current companion and also seek to flee the area before the FBI comes in and takes them all away. Bodhi reminds the robbers that they have been pursuing their actions for many years and have not even been close to being nabbed. He also reminds his men that what they are doing this not for a motive of profit but rather a motive for rebellion against an unfair system. The group relents from their fears when their boss assures him that Utah has made their travels more interesting and he will see to it that the cop does not get in their way.

Point Break reaches a pinnacle of tension and terror when an angry Tyler confronts Utah in the middle of the night at gunpoint. Utah is unnerved to see the weapon is his own gun and even more disturbed when the girl lashes out at him for being a cop and falsely representing himself to her. By now, the two have been dating and consummated their relationship. Tyler, having first been abandoned by her parents, feels a renewed sense of betrayal by Utah and tells him to never to talk to her again. She vows to never forgive him and dashes out of the house. Utah collapses on the ground in despair when he is unable to chase after his girlfriend.

The next day, Bodhi and the surfers arrive at the house to surprise Utah. The FBI lawman, aware of the truth from his recent discovery, is nervous but convinced the group is not in tune with the same awareness. Bodhi paces the home with a sly smile and invites his buddy to accompany them on a journey. Utah at first refuses but gives in when Bodhi states it is one of excitement and adrenaline. By this time, Utah has fallen in love with the sport of surfing and finds himself connected to Bodhi on both an emotional and spiritual level. The plan Bodhi has is to take Utah skydiving with the group. In perhaps the most memorable sequence of Point Break, the group is aloft in the air for several minutes and gazing down at the tiny landscape far below.

After skydiving, Utah is confronted by Bodhi with the knowledge of his true identity and intentions. Utah thinks he has the upper hand but is caught off guard when the bank robber provides video proof that he has Tyler taken hostage by a close associate not affiliated with the ‘Ex-Presidents.’ Despite having had a romantic relationship with Tyler, Bodhi is prepared to use the girl as a pawn and kill her if the undercover agent does not cooperate with his newest request. Trapped and boiling over with rage, Utah vows to do whatever it takes to save his girlfriend. Bodhi reveals to his counterpart that Tyler has actually fallen in love with Utah and that the past connection he had with her never reached the same level. Utah wants a compromise but at the same time wants to bring the ‘Ex-Presidents’ to justice and save the city from more harm.

The end of Point Break draws closer as Bodhi pieces together his plan for revenge and presents it to Utah: the FBI agent must accompany the ‘Ex-Presidents’ on their last robbery of the summer. Utah reminds his foe that he is a cop and could arrest him at any time. Bodhi, far from feeling threatened, is instead amused and relishes in having this distinct advantage. The gang enters the bank and Utah assumes the role of a willing participant and is the only one not wearing a mask. The plan goes awry when a cocky Bodhi has his boys go after the vault. As a result, an undercover officer lying on the floor draws his gun and fires. One of the ‘Ex-Presidents’ is killed and several others are wounded. A devastated Bodhi tears off his Reagan mask and kills the officer. He is able to exit the building safely after knocking Utah out with the bottom of his gun.

In the aftermath of the foiled robbery, the FBI boss is annoyed with his two agents and orders them not to pursue this case any further. Instead, he seeks to conduct the investigation and chase for the robbers. Utah pleads with his boss to reconsider and Pappas backs him up by saying he has more information on this case than anybody. The boss is firm but the partners defy the rules and head straight for the airport. It is there that Bodhi and the rest of the gang are preparing to board a flight bound for Mexico.

Point Break inches toward the conclusion with a fierce gun battle at the airport. Utah seeks to prevent the remainder of the gang from escaping. The end result is that more gang members are killed alongside Pappas. Devastated, the FBI agent can only watch his comrade die and witness Bodhi flee towards the safety of the plane. By surprise, Bodhi takes his former friend in his grip and forces him aboard the plane. Once there, the structure reaches high in the air and arrives at the point where skydivers can jump. Bodhi and the last surviving member of the ‘Ex-Presidents’ jump safely with parachutes. However, Utah is left empty-handed and jumps off in time to land ensnared with Bodhi. Together, the two argue and writhe around as the ground slowly gets closer. Utah has his gun drawn and is prepared to shoot Bodhi. Bodhi cleverly reminds his adversary that unless the cord is pulled they will both get killed upon impact. Feeling frustrated but knowing the dangerous crook is accurate, Utah releases his gun and the rip cord is successfully utilized for the men to arrive intact on a deserted desert landscape.

Utah is unable to go after Bodhi once again due to his knee injury flaring up a second time. The mastermind races away to safety where a jeep driven by a colleague shows up to escort him to freedom. The FBI agent is distracted when Tyler is set free and rushes into his arms. Bodhi is gone and has the bank money with him in tow.

The end of the film is as dramatic in tone as it is startling in nature and gripping in design. Bodhi, a determined individual who holds a deep love for the sport of surfing, decides to show up at Bells Beach, Australia for a ‘50-Year-Storm’ in order to catch in some of the biggest ocean waves available. In actuality, the scene itself is filled within the northern Oregon coastline. Utah, having been successful in tracking down his prey, faces off with him at the beach side in disgust. They break out into a severe fist fight which leaves the criminal bound together to the lawman by handcuffs. Turns out the setting was a setup because Utah was aware of where Bodhi would be and cops follow and swarm upon them.

Bodhi, knowing he is trapped, pleads in a hopeless manner for his former friend to let him go surfing into this one last wave. Utah is at first resistant but surprises everyone at the scene by releasing his counterpart from the handcuffs. As a result, Bodhi latches onto his board and dives out into the sea. The cops are furious and scold their colleague. The young agent assures the group that the last thing he did was let Bodhi go. The leader of the ‘Ex-Presidents’ disappears beneath the huge waves and Utah tosses his FBI badge into the water. Bodhi loses his life maintaining the sense of rebellious integrity that he craved all his life. Utah is able to uphold his values of justice while sidestepping his career ambitions. In the end, both men were linked and cause of each other’s demise.

Point Break is remembered for its scenic action sequences and also starring a memorable role from the now deceased Patrick Swayze. Kathryn Bigelow established a positive reputation in her own right for leading a tense plot to the top of the box office. Keanu Reeves managed to step aside from his comedic role in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and led the charge with as a torn hero. The film remains popular with a cult following as well as a mainstream following. Skydiving and surfing use in film has yet to be outmatched in subsequent or previous films along those lines.

Movie: Point Break
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Cast: Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Gary Busey and Lori Petty
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Rating: R
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Brian's Rating: 5-of-5 stars

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