Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Point Break

If there were a museum of '90s pop culture, Point Break would most assuredly deserve a prominent place in it. The film takes Patrick Swayze at the tail-end of his glory days, Keanu Reeves at the peak of his stardom, and pre-Oscar-makeover Kathryn Bigelow and tumbles them all together with enough extreme sporting activities to send a tween boy into a Mountain Dew-induced sugar coma. Somehow all of this comes together to make a film so simultaneously awesome and ridiculous that decades after the fact, it’s still a go-to reference for cop movies.

Never one to shy away from the difficult questions, the nanobots and this technician will seek to end once and for all the eternal debate: Is Point Break an awesome action film relegated to camp status by Keanu Reeves' wooden acting, or is it a mediocre action film elevated to camp brilliance by Keanu Reeves' wooden acting?
  • If there's a more all-American name in the world than Johnny Utah, we defy you to produce it. = +28pts 
  • Key to passing your FBI firearm exam: Shoot only the ethnic-looking targets. = -6pts 
  • Keanu's peckerwood boss played by one of the Bobs from Office Space. = +8pts 
  • Keanu Reeves' partner played by Gary Busey, who even at the height of his career looks like he perpetually spent the last night under a bridge. = +30pts 
  • We can think of worse gimmicks for a gang of bank robbers than "The Ex-Presidents." = +7pts (In fact, we did. So far The Future Ombudsmen are still missing a wheelman and someone to work crowd control). 
  • Keanu attempts to shake Gary Busey from his defeatist acceptance of the Ex-Presidents' elusiveness by acting at him AS. HARD. AS. HE. CAN. = -11pts 
  • Also worth noting: how none of the cops in the background of the scene seem to notice that two of their colleagues are screaming in each other's faces just a few feet away. = -8pts 
  • After dragging the theory that The Ex-Presidents are surfers out of Gary Busey through psychological trickery and verbal abuse, Keanu proceeds to shit all over it. = +2pts 
  • Keanu Reeves saved from drowning by Lori Petty. If only he had returned the favor by saving her from Tank Girl. = +5pts
  • '90s tech alert: The IBMs with green monochrome monitors the FBI analysts use to look up Lori Petty's criminal record are likely still in use within the Department of Veterans' Affairs. = -17pts (Because that's some shameful shit.) 
  • The affectless manner in which Keanu relates his intention to exploit Lori Petty's childhood trauma suggests that maybe he's not a bad actor at all; it's just that Johnny Utah is supposed to be a sociopath. = +14pts 
  • Keanu's fabricated backstory about trying to live his own life in the wake of his parents' death is less than convincing. Forget mimicking human emotion...what about just human speech patterns? = -21pts 
  • If that learning-to-surf montage song were any more on the nose, it would literally be describing the images unfolding on the screen as we were watching them. = -9pts 
  • Lori Petty on Patrick Swayze: "We know each other." The word she left out: "Biblically." = +7pts 
  • Keanu wins the trust of Patrick Swayze's gang by being a famous college football player. Good thing this movie takes place before the internet was that much of a thing. A glance at his LinkedIn profile would have kind of ruined his cover. = +11pts 
  • Swayze goes Roadhouse on a bunch of surf Nazis trying to beat up Keanu. = +15pts 
  • Swayze welcoming Keanu to his party: "Welcome to my home. What's mine is yours." That's an invitation to a threesome with the girl he was dancing with, right? = +5pts 
  • Did they just get done shooting a music video in Swayze's room? = -9pts
  • After a particularly exhilarating late-night surf, Keanu confides in Lori Petty, "I can't describe what I'm feeling." Rest assured, he also can't convey it through his acting. = -6pts 
  • '90s fashion alert: Even thongs were high-waisted. = +2pts 
  • The plan to bust Warchild's gang gets bloody. Keanu ends up getting his ass kicked by a nude woman. = +15pts 
  • The lawnmower scene is still really intense. = +18pts 
  • Gary Busey assures Keanu that shooting people is no different than shooting paper targets, "just a little more to clean up." Maaaaybe the secret to understanding this movie is coming to terms with the fact that everyone in it is a sociopath? = -12pts 
  • Keanu, on discovering that his bust interrupted an undercover DEA operation, and that Warchild's gang has an alibi for the latest robbery: "Ah, shit." = -20pts 
  • But, hey, Tom Sizemore! = +5pts 
  • Keanu gets a new break in his case, thanks to his character's photographic memory for asses. = +13pts 
  • FBI SOP Handbook, Section 31.d: Stakeouts - After sending your partner out to get you lunch (at 10:30 in the morning), make sure to spend the entire time he's gone completely distracted by the funnies. = -8pts 
  • FBI SOP Handbook, Section 19.f: Firearms - Discharging your firearm at a car-full of fleeing suspects in the middle of a busy street is a-okay. = -12pts 
  • Bank robbers SOP Handbook, Section 28 b: Disposing of evidence - an improvised flamethrower is just a gasoline pump and a cigarette lighter away. = +14pts 
  • That foot-chase. = +25pts 
  • FBI SOP Handbook, Section 47 k: Losing your suspect. If the suspect you've been chasing on-foot for 10 blocks gets away because you can't bring yourself to shoot him on account of your budding bromance, make sure to completely unload your weapon by firing it straight up in the air while screaming. = +35pts 
  • Lori Petty to Keanu: "You've got that look again." That's because he only has one expression. = -17pts 
  • Maybe it’s just this technician’s inner 12-year-old boy talking right now, but there is something genuinely moving about the skydiving scene. = +23pts 
  • Swayze frames his master plan—in which he has kidnapped Lori Petty and handed her off to his psychopathic button-man, Rosy, in order to coerce Keanu into robbing a bank with him—as being for Keanu’s “growth.” Is this like when our parents told us our punishments were going to hurt them more than us as we were growing up? = -4pts 
  • It’s a testament to Patrick Swayze’s abilities as an actor just how convincing Bohdi’s conflicting mish-mash of vaguely hippie-ish bullshit sounds in his mouth. = +18pts 
  • Leaving aside the fact that he shot an undercover cop, then got himself and a bank security guard killed, the off-duty cop who interrupted the robbery was actually a bigger bad-ass than any of the main characters. = +7pts 
  • Gary Busey gets kind of a raw deal in this movie. = -6pts 
  • It would be another decade and change before Keanu would play a doctor in Something’s Gotta Give, but I think he’s already got his bedside manner down: “You’re cold because all the blood is running out of your body, Roach. You’ll be dead soon.” = +10pts 
  • Swayze could use a little help in crafting similes, though: “I know you want me so bad, it’s like acid in your mouth.” = -10pts 
  • The scene where Keanu dives out of that plane after Swayze with no parachute is still one of the most badass sequences ever put to film. = +100pts 
  • Pretty chill of the FBI to not only forgo charging Keanu for armed robbery and several counts of murder, but also to reinstate him as an agent after the colossal, blood-soaked cock-up that his entire investigation turned out to be. = +9pts 
  • Keanu doesn’t drop “Vaya Con Dios” nearly as smooth as Monsignor Martinez. = -4pts 
  • If this movie had been made in 2014, the fact that they don’t recover Swayze’s body at the end of it would have insured at least two more sequels, plus an origin prequel for the douchey captain played by one of the Bobs. = -20pts
Total Score = +200pts
Available on: DVD, YouTube (for a limited time only, we’re sure)

Well, there you have it, folks. The nanobots can’t lie. Point Break is a good movie. Despite having a fairly limp script and what we will generously describe as a “performance” by Reeves, PB still succeeds thanks to the insane charisma that Patrick Swayze imbues Bohdi with and Katheryn Bigelow’s masterful direction and pacing. Among other actors considered for the role of Johnny Utah were Johnny Depp and Charlie Sheen—you know, people who (at the time, at least) could actually act. One wonders how different the movie would have been with one of them in the lead role. It’s possible that Point Break would be granted Die Hard levels of reverence. Or maybe not. There is something strangely hypnotic in Reeves’ blankness that couldn’t be achieved with another (professional) actor. His vacant, reading-off-a-cue-card delivery is so iconic in its own way that it inspired a guerilla stage production.

Score Technician: Joe Hemmerling

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