In recent years, the media at large has started to notice just how few successful women directors there are in Hollywood. The impetus for this was when Kathryn Bigelow directed a film that put her on everybody’s map. Up until this point, Bigelow was routinely credited as James Cameron’s wife, despite the fact that they had only been married for three years. But when The Hurt Locker premiered in Venice in September of 2008, it received a ten-minute standing ovation. The movie would sweep the awards ceremonies, winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards and the BAFTAs.
A few years later, Bigelow would have another smash hit with Zero Dark Thirty, which would also get a Best Picture nod, among another avalanche of awards. People were wondering, “where did this girl come from?” In truth, she’d been making films since 1978. Her most recent film had been the “Harrison Ford on a submarine” flop K-19: The Widowmaker. She had helmed the 1987 vampire horror Near Dark, now a cult classic, and a personal favorite of mine. But her biggest hit before she became a critical darling was an odd action/heist movie called Point Break, which somehow I had never seen.
Point Break stars Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves, both nominees for MTV’s Most Desirable Male Award in 1991. It’s not hard to see why. Reeves is only just moving past Bill & Ted, and has become a real pretty boy, but still totally believable as a surfer. Swayze, coming off the previous year’s sensitive portrayal in Ghost, is all charisma and swagger as surfer/bank robber/spiritual guru Bodhi. If the movie has any faults, it might be that Bodhi is just so much cooler than Reeves’ FBI Agent Johnny Utah. The first time we see Bodhi, he’s robbing a bank wearing a tuxedo and a Ronald Reagan mask. His gang robs the place armed to the teeth, and in 90 seconds, they’re out of there, with not a single casualty. It’s pretty awesome.
Helping Utah bring down the Ex-Presidents is Angelo Pappas, played with expected insanity by Gary Busey. This is three years after the accident that left him permanently unhinged, but far before he became a parody of himself. Complicating Utah’s attempts to infiltrate the surfers is surfer girl, and ex-girlfriend to Bodhi, Tyler Endicott, played by Tank Girl’s Lori Petty. I was only 9 at the time, but I guarantee that if I’d seen a picture of Tyler back then, I would have been immediately in love with her.
I’ve heard this movie described as great or terrible. What it definitely is is insane. The premise is ridiculous, and the last third of the movie makes no sense whatsoever. But unless you are physically incapable of suspending your disbelief, I can’t imagine how anyone could hate this movie. Almost all of the characters are fun to watch, the action scenes are top-notch, and the stunts…damn. If you can watch Swayze say goodbye to Reeves before really jumping out of a real plane and not be impressed, I dunno what to tell you. If you haven’t seen it before, it’s a strong recommend.