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original title: Le llaman Bodhi
duration: 2h 2min
tags: 27 banks in three years. Anything to catch the perfect wave!
keywords: surfer, bankrobbery, titledirectedbyfemale, malebonding, undercover, extremesports, undercoveragent, undercovercop, heist, barebutt, neonoir, barechestedmale, malenudity, barefootmale, pubichair, male
But logic doesn't matter when adrenaline is pumping through your system. And that's precisely the point of Kathryn Bigelow's "Point Break," a movie that's just as exciting the 20th time you see it as the first.
Some people might ridicule the fact that this film is so high on my list. Conceptually a "B" movie (FBI rookie infiltrates gang of surfer bank robbers), the film did moderately well at the box office and could easily have been dismissed as an action-thriller among the likes of "Lethal Weapon" or "Die Hard." But I have a hard time finding a movie that matches this film's serenity and luster, which ultimately defines the spell under which special agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) falls after meeting surfer Bodhi (Patrick Swayze).
They say there's something about surfing unlike anything in the world. And there's a reason why people get up at 5am each day to hit the waves before the tourists show up. There's something magical about the ocean's power, something transcendent about reaching a harmony with its rhythms, which Bodhi describes as a "spiritual side" of it (that nazi surf punks like Anthony Kiedis fail to understand). Go watch "Endless Summer" and see men in their 50s abandoning careers and material possessions traveling the world in search of the perfect wave. This is what Utah is seduced by, a blend of adrenaline and total clarity that Bodhi embodies and by which he leads his minions into the "rush" of armed robbery. At several moments in the film, we too can imagine ourselves picking up a surfboard or jumping out of a plane, even if normally we'd consider ourselves too cowardly to do so.
"Point Break" features relentless stunt sequences arguably unmatched since its 1991 release-- and best of all, it mounts them one after another until its jaw-dropping climax. The raid on the meth house with a sequence involving a knife and lawnmower, the (already-mentioned) chase through Venice Beach including narrow alleyways and literally breaking through private residences, and a leap with no parachute out of a cessna over the Ensenada desert-- they're just highlights. Those don't even include the surf sequences, beginning at Leo Carrillo with Utah first learning how to pop up, on to the haunting final scene with Bodhi vanishing into a 70-footer on Bells Beach, Australia. Director Bigelow, who began her career as a painter, clearly places a high emphasis on visual appeal, rarely leaving a shot without some majesty to it. Meanwhile, in the context of California beach culture, Reeves and Swayze (and even Lori Petty) are perfectly cast, while Gary Busey has some of the best moments of his career as Utah's older, energetic partner Angelo Pappas.
Universal Pictures essentially remade this movie for the post-millennium audience as "The Fast and the Furious," with Paul Walker in the Utah role and Vin Diesel in the Bodhi role. And that film was precisely what I mentioned earlier "Point Break" could've been-- an adequately entertaining action thriller among the likes of "Lethal Weapon" and "Die Hard." But street racing, while exciting, lacks the spellbinding serenity of surfing. Driving at speeds of 120mph can get you a rush, but there's no feeling of the earth, no spiritual harmony, no lucidity in one's existence.
I was thirteen when this film was first released, in a summer when "Terminator 2" was all the rage among teenage boys. It wasn't until the next spring that I rented the movie on video, at which time my older cousin told me "I can't believe you didn't see this in the theater!" With the help of a big screen TV and surround sound, I began to understand what he meant. In many ways, this is a movie to be experienced like the very first action-thrillers, where audiences leapt into aisles to avoid being hit by trains charging at the screen. "Point Break" doesn't try to be profound or dramatic or anything else it's not. But it's far better than "Terminator 2" "Die Hard" or "Lethal Weapon" or any other cops-robbers movie that has been released in the last twenty years. Not until Zack Snyder's "300" (2006) was a non-Oscar-aspiring action film able to jolt adrenaline in viewers at a purely visceral level from its frenetic sensory experience.
"Point Break" is just that good. In terms of Hollywood history, Bigelow's film is the perfect document of its time. Tapping the Source (1984), a novel by Kem Nunn, provided the inspiration for Point Break. It's called "Hundreds of Tears" by Sheryl Crow. Yes. There's likely no way a surfer as experienced as Bodhi could survive it. Bodhi even says earlier in the film when he describes the storm at Bell's Beach and how big the waves will be that surfing the break will be the "ultimate price". Bodhi had basically wished to die in a glorious manner and he did.
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