Point Break

(Kathryn Bigelow, USA, 1991)


In 1990, perhaps the only film to rival Goodfellas was Kathryn Bigelow's kinetic, subversive story of a female cop, Blue Steel. Focusing on the dark side of the male psyche, Bigelow (like Scorsese with Cape Fear [1991]) obviously aimed for a greater commercial success with Point Break, starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze.

Those viewers and critics who found the plot of Blue Steel somewhat improbable will likely be dumbfounded by Point Break. The film has what Hollywood parlance refers to as a high concept – an outlandish but arresting central premise. Swayze plays Bodhi, a surfer with a Zen mystical bent and a knack for elaborate bank heists. To unmask and capture him, rookie cop Johnny Utah (Reeves) must go undercover as a loose-limbed surfing dude.

As even the character names suggest, Point Break is something of an adolescent, comic book fantasy. But Bigelow has serious themes on her mind. Her film vividly explores the "macho death wish" inside men, as Bodhi and Johnny play dangerous games with waves, guns and unopened parachutes.

In a Bigelow movie, there is always more emotion and energy than logic. Point Break's fast and furious action set-pieces are worthy of anything directed by Scorsese. And, in its own unique, cheesy way, the film is a compelling instance of pulp poetry, akin to the most colourful works of Pop Art.

MORE Bigelow: Wild Palms, Strange Days, The Loveless

© Adrian Martin December 1991

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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