Later this year, Universal is going to release their remake of Point Break. The original is a classic action movie. I hope that the remake can come close to the original but it does have a tough task ahead of it. One of the problems they will face is trying to capture the magical craziness of Gary Busey, who seemed to inspire Patrick Swayze’s performance. Swayze’s Bodhi is just one of the reasons this movie still holds up 24 years later and makes it worth examining a little closer.
So Crazy for Swayze
“Sometimes insanity is genius” “Now I got mine I’m Swayze” Chali 2na, So Crazy, Fish Outta Water
If you are a fight fan you probably have a favorite Swayze movie. Three of mine come in one the strongest stretches of his career. From 1989 to 1991 he was in four major movies. Three of them would go on to be classics and one not so much; first there was Road House (1989), followed by Next of Kin (1989), then the one misstep Ghost (1990) before he bounced back strong with Point Break (1991). Today, I want to breakdown some of the fights scenes from the classic Point Break and look at some of the things that make this movie so awesome.
The Cast and the Director
While it is a Swayze movie with a lot Swayzeitude, it was directed by one of my favorite directors Kathryn Bigelow. She has two great movies with the word dark in the title, Zero Dark Thirty and Near Dark. Two of her other best known works, The Hurt Locker and Blue Steel, reflect her ability to tell a great story and make an interesting action movie.
Point Break has everything you could want in an high-octane action movie including; surfing, philosophy, night surfing, car chases, foot chases, shootouts, fights, sky diving, a fight while sky diving, an amazing cast and some bank robberies.
The cast is led by Swayze. He is the first one credited as he should be. If you were to go by amount of time on-screen then it could be considered a Keanu Reeves’ movie, but while you do remember the name Johnny Utah, it is Swayze’s Bodhi that steals the movie. Reeves has his limitations as an actor but they were well used by Bigelow. She then turned Swayze loose who went out and gave one of his most memorable performances.
Along with those two there is the awesomeness that is Gary Busey who can only be described as a true crazy acting force of nature. He seemed to inspire those around him to new levels of moments of awesome craziness in this movie. It was easy to do with a cast that included Lori Petty, John C McGinley, Lee Tergesen, an uncredited cameo by Tom Sizemore who ironically played a DEA agent and a small role for Red Hot Chili Pepper Anthony Kiedis.
When a Buddy Cop Film is not really a Buddy Cop Film
At a basic level this is a classic “Buddy Cop” film in the vein of Lethal Weapon which is the classic modern-day version of that kind of movie. At least that is what it appears to be in the first ten minutes of Point Break. We get the older slightly burned out and possibly washed up cop, in this case FBI agent Pappas played by Busey, taking on new the young hotshot F!B!I! Agent! John-ny! Utah!
The first twist we see on the buddy cop movie is that Pappas is the crazy one in the opening and we think that Reeves will be the straight-laced one. Utah seems to fulfill that role with his QB playing college football background. Then we quickly find out that he too is crazy, maybe even crazier than Pappas. It is just one of the expectations of the audience that Bigelow plays with in this film.
In the opening minutes of the film we also get a glimpse of the main villains in the movie, the bank robbers wearing former President’s masks when they commit the robberies. It is Pappas who has a theory that they are surfers based on their patterns over the three years and a couple of other small clues. The theory is of course considered “crazy” by his co-agents.
With this cast it was clear that she was not looking for subtle performances. Instead, she chose to subtly play around with the audience’s expectation of the Lethal Weapon style “Buddy Cop” movie. It does not seem like an accident that she turned the psycho killer Mr. Joshua from that movie and turned him into the veteran FBI Agent Pappas. Of course Busey is his crazy brilliant self in both roles.
The real relationship in this movie is between Utah and Bodhi. They make choices and sacrifices for each other that end up costing them the lives of their partners. For Bodhi it is his crew that ultimately goes down because of his decisions. While Utah gets Pappas killed. This is not exactly the typical ending of your buddy cop movie. A lot of that is because of Bodhi. He is not your typical villain.
The Villain is usually the most fun
One of the elements of a great action movie is the villain. Without Busey in Lethal Weapon that movie would not be a classic. The same could be said about Point Break without Swayze. Only this movie is more Bodhi’s movie than anyone else’s. He commands your attention every time he is onscreen.
It could just be the surfer bleached blonde mullet which is magnificent, but it is more than just the hair. Swayze gives one of his most inspired performances in his portrayal of the extreme sport junkie Bodhi.
Swayze’s Bodhi is having a blast in this movie; playing football on the beach, surfing at night, jumping out of airplanes and robbing banks. He takes the audience along for a thrill ride throughout the movie right up to his final moments. If I could be one character in this movie it would be Bodhi. He is certainly cooler than Utah and a big part of that comes from Swayze and his performance.
Along with several shootouts in this movie there are several awesome fights scenes. Something you need if you truly making a great action movie. Again, Swayze takes the lead in the movie and kicks a lot of ass in the movie using his background in Thai Chi.
While most people associate Thai Chi with old people moving slowly in a park it is a martial art and does have uses in self-defense. Most of which is achieved by speeding up the movements and turning them into strikes. Swayze does this beautifully in the movie. The sequences look believable. Now, he is not using perfect technique but he has much more flow to him than Reeves does during the various fight scenes in the movie.
We first see it when he rescues Utah from getting his ass kicked by some other surfers. Swayze comes in and breaks up the fight only to have Utah start it back up again. Swayze quickly goes from peacekeeper to asskicker.
While Utah deals with his original attacker Swayze takes out the others including, Anthony Kedis. The fight ends like this.
It also serves to establish Bodhi as the alpha in this movie.This scene also bonds Bodhi and Utah closer together. Bodhi is Utah’s savior but also allowed him to save some face and kick some ass himself. Afterwards Bodhi praises Utah for his crazy attitude and willingness to fight even though he was outnumbered.
The next fight takes place when Utah and Pappas go to bust the surfers that Utah and Bodhi had tangled with the day before. Of course the bust goes south and there is a shootout with a few fights mixed in. The first is between Utah and one of the girlfriends who was taking a shower. She comes out and knocks the gun out of Utah’s hand and then kicks his ass. First a strike to the head then she grabs the sides his head and smashes the back of his head into the mirror. She then transfers to a basic Thai clinch with her hands behind his neck and knees him in the nuts bending him forward. A chop to the neck sends him to all fours and then she goes with a Pride style soccer kick to the face.
Warning the GIF is NSFW contains nudity or awesome it contains nudity either way there is some nudity. You’ve been warned and informed. Also, Keanu Reeves get his ass kicked.
There is something satisfying about her kicking Reeves ass and looking more like a fighter than he does in this movie. You get the sense that she probably could kick his ass in real life. Either way it is a great sequence within the shootout.
A few moments later in the scene Utah has recovered and finds himself battling War Child the biggest and baddest of the gang. Somehow Utah is able to just hold his own long enough for Pappas to save him before War Child shoved his face into the running upside down mower.
The next big fight scene takes place between Bodhi and Utah. The unique thing about this one is it takes place thousands of feet above the ground. Body goes out the plane with a parachute and Utah follows him without one. He catches Bodhi in the air and they stay embraced together in a battle of wills over who is going to the pull the cord to open the chute. Utah finally gives in at the last second and drops his gun to pull it.
The final fight takes place between them at the end of the movie. They exchange a couple of punches and Utah wins the initial fight. Bodhi knows it is over and all he wants is to go out surfing the perfect giant wave to his death. Utah has the chance to take him in and make the arrest and once again he chooses Bodhi and lets him go out doing what he loved. After everything, Utah still had feelings for Bodhi.
Nothing quite like a threesome
The relationships between Utah, Tyler and Bodhi is a part of what makes this movie interesting, and more than just your basic action movie. The first time Utah sees Bodhi is on the beach. Utah has just finished a lesson with Tyler and he is watching Bodhi surf beautifully. He is admiring him. This leads to Tyler introducing them and playing some beach football together. Football is Utah’s former sport. One he excelled in at college playing for Ohio State and becoming an All-American quarterback.
The football game establishes their relationship with each other and Tyler. Up to this point she has grown to like giving him lessons but does not seem to see him as anything other than some extra cash for her. First, Bodhi shows his skill. Then we see Tyler score and Utah of course is now in his element. He does well but not quite as well as Bodhi.
It leads to their first clash as Bodhi breaks away on another run and Utah gets hyper aggressive in his pursuit. Too aggressive for the level of this fun pickup game of football. It ends with him tackling Bodhi far too late and too hard. In the NFL he would have drawn a 15 yard penalty for unnecessary roughness but here it Bodhi’s friends who are looking to exact their own version of justice but it is Bodhi who stops them. He also informs them that they have been playing with the great Johnny Utah from OSU and they are all cool with him now. Even Tyler looks at him differently.
Tyler of course knows Bodhi because they used to date and he even asks her if Utah is the guy who replaced him. What makes this all so different from your typical undercover story is that at this point Utah is not going after Bodhi. He has only used Tyler to learn to surf and find a way onto the beach. The focus of the investigation does not come around to Bodhi until after the botched raid on the War Child lead gang.
Tyler of course knows Bodhi because they used to date and he even asks her if Utah is the guy who replaced him. What makes this all so different from your typical undercover story is that at this point Utah is not going after Bodhi. He has only used Tyler to learn to surf and find a way onto the beach. The focus of the investigation does not come around to Bodhi until after the botched raid on the War Child led gang.
During the course of the next robbery after Utah has figured out that it is Bodhi and his crew pulling the robberies, both Utah and Bodhi choose to let the other live. First Bodhi stops one of his crew from shooting Utah when he first comes up on them as they are fleeing the bank. Then later in the chase scene Utah has Bodhi easily and instead of shooting he lets him escape. Later in the film Pappas wants to shoot Bodhi but Utah steps in front of him to save Tyler. Moments later Pappas is gunned down from behind leaving Utah to take them down by himself.
He finishes the job at the beach by allowing Bodhi to have his ending. The chance to ride one last wave into his own personal sunset. While Utah rides off to the action movie version of happily ever after with Tyler and a career in the FBI.
This is one of those movies that is easy to watch and enjoy on one level as a mindless action movie. It has all of the ingredients to satisfy your action movie hunger but through Bigelow’s direction she tells an interesting story. One that rewards a little deeper look. On top of all of that you also have one of the funnest performances of Swayze’s career. I hope the remake is able to channel some of that magic. It is going to be tough because there will only ever be one Patrick Swayze.
If you have access to Encore then you can catch Point Break this month. It is worth the DVR space.