A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 313 – Point Break

Point Break – January 7th, 2011

Hey, guess what time it is? It’s time for a Keanu Reeves fest! No reason in particular, but I was in the mood for some mindless action tonight and we did Johnny Mnemonic last night and we still have a handful of Reeves movies to watch so hey, why not, right? Right! This is one of those movies I know I’ve seen before but I can’t for the life of me remember when or where I saw it first. It gets played on television all the time and it’s definitely entered into the general cultural lexicon. One of our favorite new views for this project is the movie Hot Fuzz, wherein the main character has this to say about it: “Well, I wouldn’t argue that it wasn’t a no-holds-barred, adrenaline-fueled thrill ride. But there is no way you can perpetrate that amount of carnage and mayhem and not incur a considerable amount of paperwork.” Yep. Pretty much.

Watching this tonight, with an eye towards reviewing it instead of just letting all the surfing and bank robbing and FBI stuff go on without any intellectual involvement on my part, I can see that yes, Sgt. Angel was right in Hot Fuzz. There’s an awful lot of action in this movie, and not much desk work to back it all up. Though there is one mention of killing a guy on the job looking bad in a report, so that’s something. The funny thing is, when this movie starts out it has a distinctly CSI vibe going on. When new FBI agent Johnny Utah shows up at his first assignment and gets put on bank robberies with old timer Agent Pappas, they focus on things like possible sweat traces on car upholstery and analyzing hair samples for toxins to narrow down what beaches to check. There is a lot of office work at the start of the movie. But eventually Johnny falls in with surfer guru Bodhi and his crew and the movie veers sharply coastward as Johnny works undercover to try and figure out who the surfer bank thieves are.

Bodhi is played by Patrick Swayze, who really threw himself into the character. He’s charismatic and mysterious and definitely has a bit of a cult following around himself. He reels young Johnny right in, and by the time Johnny figures out that his new pals are the guys he’s looking for he’s so enamored of Bodhi he can’t bring himself to shoot when he has the guy dead to rights. Of course, the movie frames it as a serious issue for Johnny, making it out to be about his soul searching and all. He gets involved with these adrenaline junkies and meets a girl (Tyler, whom I will get to soon) and discovers there’s more to life than analyzing the mud left behind in the footprint of a criminal and bashing in the doors of drug dealer punks. It’s all portrayed as this major awakening for him. A hard awakening that forces him to choose between two opposed lifestyles. And he does choose, eventually, but he still lets Bodhi do what he wants, even though his choice is a compromise of sorts. Bodhi wins. I can’t help but see the whole character relationship arc there as being one of a criminal and his psychological victim.

Now, I’m not saying that being an FBI agent is more valid than being a surfer, or that you can’t do both in real life. But the movie presents it as an either/or. That Johnny can’t live the life he wants while being in the FBI. And why not? Because he had to turn in the guy who “woke him up”? The guy who robbed banks for the hell of it and kidnapped his girlfriend and had her held at knifepoint as collateral so Johnny would help him? The guy who blackmailed Johnny into robbing a bank with him? The guy who got his friends killed? Yeah. That guy. I think there are two ways to interpret the end. One is that Johnny knows he’s not cut out for the FBI if it’s going to put him in situations like this. The other is that he really did fall for Bodhi. And given how Bodhi goes out? I pick the latter. Man, that’s depressing.

Still, it is a hell of a fun action movie. There’s another quote from Hot Fuzz about it: “Ever fired your gun in the air and yelled, ‘Aaaaaaah?’” Said by Sgt. Angel’s new partner as said new partner tries to ascertain just how cool being a city police officer can be. When the moment he was referencing came up tonight Andy and I both laughed. It’s such a dramatic bit, with Johnny seeing Bodhi and knowing it’s him and knowing he could shoot him in a matter of a heartbeat and not doing it and shooting his whole clip into the air and screaming. He can’t kill his friend! So he might as well make a lot of noise instead! The whole movie’s like that. Big emotional dramatic moments of catharsis and noise. There’s a lot of screaming and yelling and shooting and running and explosions and a gas pump flame thrower (Mythbusters on this one, stat!). After the CSI-esque introduction it’s really amusing how amped up the action gets.

There are some familiar faces in this movie aside from Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. Gary Busey plays Pappas, and seems to have enjoyed the role. Tom Sizemore has an uncredited bit part as an undercover DEA agent. And John C. McGinley plays Pappas and Johnny’s tightly wound boss. It didn’t strike me to look too far into the careers of some of the cast of Living in Oblivion when we watched it earlier this week and now I realize I should have. One of the members of Bodhi’s crew in this movie looked bizarrely familiar to me, so I looked him up. Turns out he’s James LeGros, who was Chad Palomino in Living in Oblivion. And then I looked further down his list. We’ve seen him before. In Solarbabies as Metron. I do not feel bad for not recognizing him between Solarbabies and Living in Oblivion and I’m amused to find him here too. And then there’s Lori Petty.

I love Lori Petty. She plays Tyler here. Surfer gal and kickass at it. She teaches Johnny to surf and gets him in with Bodhi’s crew. She can hang with them and she knows her stuff. I love her character in this, involved but not involved at the same time. She has some great insight into Johnny, telling him he’s got “that kamikaze look” and pointing out that Bodhi can smell that on someone (hi there, warning flag!). I just wish she’d gotten a better ending. It’s not that she has a bad ending, it’s that she doesn’t really get one. She’s a hostage for much of the climax and only shows up to be let go. That’s it. She doesn’t even warrant a mention in Johnny and Bodhi’s last conversation. She and Johnny supposedly fell in love, but eh, she didn’t get offed so that’s good enough. Pity, that.

It’s not a super smart movie. It’s not a super good movie. I mean, it’s not winning any prizes for the script or the acting. But it’s good at what it set out to do: Put lots of action and lots of surfing on the screen. And I’m all for an action movie directed by a woman. Kathryn Bigelow has definitely made a career out of being a kickass director who makes movies people don’t usually consider women for. And I’ve got to hand it to her that this is a quintessential action movie, worthy of being referenced today and well into the future.

January 7, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment

Point Break

January 7, 2011

Point Break

After watching Johnny Mnemonic last night we decided to do a Keanu Reeves weekend. Because, you know, we could. I know that Keanu has a reputation. Heck, I’ve slagged off on him a lot because he’s so wooden and monotone. But that kind of works for him sometimes. Somehow he made the unbelievable transformation from the kind of dim Ted “Theodore” Logan to one of the highest grossing action stars of all time. Because you don’t really have to be able to emote to be an action star. Apparently all you need to do is glare, look a little dreamy, and yell a lot.

Like Keanu himself I’d say that this movie isn’t particularly great, but it’s good enough. It makes about as much sense as any other action movie in terms of plot. It has some actually good actors in it. It’s got some directoral flare to it, directed as it is by Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow. It’s a movie that did well enough and resonated with enough people that it gained some kind of a place in the annals of pop culture. It’s been featured in both Mythbusters and Hot Fuzz.

Keanu here plays a squeaky clean all American FBI agent freshly assigned to a unit in California which is trying to solve a series of bank robberies. The robbers wear the masks of previous presidents of the United States and call themselves the “Ex-Presidents.” They are supposedly the ultimate team of bank robbers – in and out in ninety seconds and never leaving behind a single clue. Keanu’s new partner, the grizzled cop Pappas played by Gary Busey has a theory that the crooks are surfers, so Johnny Utah (Keanu’s character) sets out to learn to surf and work his way undercover into the insular world of surfer dudes.

He meets the only girl surfer in the entire movie on his first day at the beach and cons her into teaching him how to use his hot pink board. I will say that it’s a pleasure seeing Lori Petty, who plays Tyler, the love interest. She is just so full of energy all the time, and it makes me want to watch Tank Girl again. Tyler introduces Johnny to the surfer guru Bodhi, played by a disheveled looking Patrick Swayze, who of course turns out to be the head of the infamous Ex-Presidents.

There’s a car chase, and a chase on foot, and eventually Johnny has to decide how to reconcile his desire to see justice done and his burgeoning friendship with the charismatic Bodhi. You wouldn’t think it would be so hard, since Bodhi shows himself to be crazy as all get out, but still they needed an excuse to keep the movie going. Once Bodhi knows that his new friend Johnny is actually an FBI agent bent on his capture he does what any lunatic adrenalin junky would do – he invites Johnny along to go skydiving. Of course everything goes wrong and there’s gunfights and blood and more skydiving.

The movie is filled with stuff like that. It’s all about X-Treme sports and seeking that big rush and male bonding. For the most part I just let it wash over me. It’s fun to watch Swayze grin his manic grin and charm Johnny into going along with his mad schemes. It’s fun to see Lori Petty flaunt her pixie bad-girl charms. It’s fun to watch Kathryn Bigelow begin to explore what can be done with a camera. (In particular the long tracking shot of FBI headquarters as Johnny first arrives there feels like a rehearsal for Strange Days.) It’s fun if you just turn off your brain and give yourself up to the movie. Ride the swells and try not to get pulled under by the riptides.

January 7, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment