Prev topicNext topicHelp

Topic 53 of 69: Point Break

Tue, Mar 5, 2002 (06:54) | Paul Terry Walhus (terry)

Point Break has an almost cult following. This classic
surfer/bankrobber/FBI film features a young Keanu Reaves as an FBI Agent
and Patrick Swayze as a surfer/bank robber disguised as an ex-President
along three other rubber masked ex Presidents. I started thinking about
this movie today when Rob Glennie commented on a tsunami, which plays a
role in this movie. See Rob's topic in geo for some sounds from this
movie relating to the "big one".

8 responses total.

 Topic 53 of 69 [movies]: Point Break
 Response 1 of 8: Wolfie Bert  (wolf) * Tue, Mar  5, 2002 (18:26) * 1 lines 
haven't seen it yet!!

 Topic 53 of 69 [movies]: Point Break
 Response 2 of 8: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Wed, Mar  6, 2002 (01:16) * 50 lines 
It's an oldie, it's been out a long time.

The "Point Break Pipeline" website at

is where I got the above sound bytes.

Here are the basics from

Point Break (1991)

Synopsis: A rookie FBI agent, hoping to break a bank robbery ring,
infiltrates a colony of surfers in Southern California.

Genre(s): thriller action

Rating: MPAA R

Penta Distribuzione (Italy)
Finnkino (Finland)
Cannon/Holland (Netherlands)
20th Century Fox (worldwide-except Japan)
FoxVideo (video-USA)
Japan Victor Company (JVC)/Nippon Herald (Japan)
Manuel Salvador (Spain)
Kommunenes Filmcentral (KF) (Norway)

Theatrical Release:
Jul 12 1991

Hawaii\Los Angeles, California

Lee Tergesen Rosie
Keanu Reeves Johnny Utah
Lori Petty Tyler Ann Endicott
John C McGinley Ben Harp
Patrick Swayze Bodhi

Kathryn Bigelow Director
James Cameron Executive producer
Gary Goetzman Music supervisor
Gary Cole Swing gang
Mark Isham Music

 Topic 53 of 69 [movies]: Point Break
 Response 3 of 8: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Wed, Mar  6, 2002 (01:19) * 160 lines 

Spoiler Alert


With an oeuvre of six feature films Kathryn Bigelow's work comprises a set
of highly cinematic mixed-genre products demonstrating a stylistic flair
and strong thematic choices as a director. None of her films are simply
singular and each demonstrates diverse qualities and focuses, cinematic
and thematic. The crisis-crossing of genre-play, themes, character types,
modes and styles makes her work as a director highly intriguing. Bigelow
is positioned in an interesting and edgy relationship with mainstream
Hollywood cinema, making films which are at once commercial in their
appeal and independent in their subtextual concerns, both highly
sophisticated and highly populist. One of the central tenents of the
crime film genre is structured around the relationships between dark and
light. Good and evil engage in a complex interaction culminating in the
realisation that the borderlines that distinguish these states are
essentially fluid - divisions appearing only in reference to a notional
designated "law". Kathryn Bigelow's Point Break (1991) takes this
understanding to an extreme length, positioning the relationship between
the oppositional forces in an intricate and spiritual dimension.

The opening sequence of Point Break anticipates the meeting of the cop and
criminal lines. Shots of Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) training at a firing
range are juxtaposed with shots of Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) surfing. This
connection is emphasised as both actors' names literally collide and pass
through one another. But the opening credits only initiate the beginning
of this complex link. The movement that brings Bodhi and Utah together is
not a simple dialectic equation leading towards unity, not a matter of
recognition and attraction between self and other, cop and criminal, law
and transgression. Point Break is not simply the story of one-line-the-law
pursing and capturing the other-the-criminal. This is about what happens
when the two lines cross, when two waves collide and go off in a new
direction, what Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari term a perpendicular
direction, a transversal movement that sweeps one and the other away.

Point Break takes its time in reaching this "transversal" moment. When the
movie opens, the FBI is confounded by the work of the Ex-Presidents, who
have robbed 28 banks in three years and left behind virtually no clues.
They are consummate professional criminals, (disguised in the masks of
ex-US Presidents Reagan, Carter, Nixon and Johnson) in and out of banks in
90 seconds, restricting themselves only to the cash draws so as not to
risk capture by spending too much time in the bank. No one has any
definite theories, except Utah's senior partner Pappas (Gary Busey) who
suggests that they are surfers who rob banks during the summer in order to
finance their travels through the surfing beaches of the Southern
Hemisphere. The other FBI officials think this theory is a joke, but Utah,
inexperienced, eager and lacking the cynicism of the other agents, is
willing to give it a shot.

The first hour of the film follows Johnny Utah along the FBI's line of
capture. We see Utah and Pappas working the case in a typically generic
way; searching computer archives and data, talking through details of the
case, following leads, working stake-outs, going undercover. This
culminates with Utah pursing Bodhi in a brilliant chase sequence through
the streets of Los Angeles. Yet the chase results in neither a capture nor
an escape. At the moment of suspense, the logic of capture "stutters";
Utah cannot fire his gun or apprehend the criminal.

In Point Break surfing is established as a quasi-religious experience and
emphasized by Bodhi; he seeks the ultimate adrenaline rush, the perfect
wave that will affirm as he says that "the human spirit is still alive".
Bodhi thrives by surrendering to and embracing the rush of events that
propel him; indeed for Bodhi, catching a wave is the philosophy to live
by. But the other wave that flows co-presently through Point Break is the
wave of law, of judicial control. From the moment Utah is buzzed through a
series of doors on his first day at the FBI's bank robbery unit in Los
Angeles, we see the mechanisms that control societies in operation. As
they banter statistics back and forth, Utah's superior instructs him that
crime-fighting is all about the manipulation of information. "Do you know
how we nail the bad guy Utah? By crunching data. Good crime scene work,
good lab work, and most importantly, good data based analysis."

This process of organizing the flow of digital information, "cracking" and
controlling the code, catching the wave of data, it is suggested, is the
way to locating the criminal body. Capturing the criminal means capturing
code. Control and resistance are both matters of direction and speed, both
cops and criminals are surfers.

Johnny and Bodhi, pursuer and prey, establish a complicated bond, and the
dynamics between them shift and turn in complex interplay throughout the
film, as Johnny the "lawman" is forced by circumstances to experience
forms of life that comprise the "other(s) side", Tyler (Lori Petti) tells
Johnny he has that "kamikaze look" about going "to the edge", which she
recognises from her relationship with Bodhi, with his philosophy of
strength and spirit in defiance.

As Point Break's narrative progresses, realism and naturalism become
increasingly marginal as Utah's line of law gets swept away in Bodhi's
wave of pure adrenaline. Bodhi and his surfer-bandits lead Utah through a
frenzied series of sky diving and bank-robbing scenes which he is
powerless to resist. However, this movement is not one of primary
abandonment. Bigelow's film conceptualizes "action" as a form of thought.
Reeve's Johnny Utah signifies a philosophy of "the event" that negates a
static and unified concept of the subject. Point Break follows the
Deleuzian notion that "one might equally well speak of new kinds of
events, rather than processes of subjectification: events that can't be
explained by the situations that give rise to them or into which they
lead. They appear for a moment, and its that moment that matters, it's the
chance we must seize".

Throughout Bigelow's films there is a preoccupation with the role and
effects of the visual dynamic and the visual sequence, with image and with
movement. The sharp foreground focus and blurred background (narrow depth
of field), the dramatically atmospheric lighting, the framed close-up, the
quick-cutting and "restless" steady-cam camera work and the intense
editing are all familiar techniques characterising Bigelow's
sophistication, generating a slick aesthetic high tension.

Bigelow renders the scenes of action with intensity - night surfing, sky
diving, bank-robbing - beautiful in terms of the singular, momentary
explosive thrill they present. Point Break revels in its sequences of
violence and ecstatic abandon subjugating any meditation on character
motivation and modes of identification. Subjectification is an effect of
the transitory movement of the waves and lines of surfing. Surfing rides a
line of subjectivity, the "self" propelled relentlessly on an ever-moving

Eventually waves crash. The lines break apart. Can annihilation be
avoided? At the conclusion of Point Break, after months of pursuit, Utah
encounters Bodhi on an Australian beach in midst of an immense storm. As
Bodhi is about to enter the swirling waters in an attempt to catch the
mythical ultimate wave, Utah handcuffs their wrists together. For a moment
it seems the line of law is in the ascendance, the cop arrests the
villain. But Utah reconsiders, allowing Bodhi to annihilate himself on the
final wave of adrenaline. Utah subsequently abandons the line of law; he
tosses his badge into the sea and walks away, open to the next line, the
next wave, and the next sensation.

Exploring the cinematic parameters of action, melodrama and romance,
Bigelow advances contemporary cultural questions around violence and
excess. The ways in which simple good verses bad dichotomies are
problematized by the themes of alter ego and the ways in which a kind of
mirroring occurs between heroes and villains are potentially volatile
narrative events. The adrenaline rush provided by Point Break in
de-stabilising the high effect crime-genre-film, with suspense as well as
the surfing, elicits seismic imaginings. Cinema becomes visceral
sensation, leaving the world of abstract thought and entering the domain
of bodily sensations.

Reviewed by Adrian Gargett

 Topic 53 of 69 [movies]: Point Break
 Response 4 of 8: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Wed, Mar  6, 2002 (01:28) * 6 lines 
And sez:

There is a certain point past which action movie cliches lose their effectiveness. You can only see so many chase scenes, both in car and on foot, before it looks like nothing so much as an excuse to hire lots of stunt guys. Once in a while, a movie makes all of the old tricks look worthwhile again, and Point Break joins the ranks. Even though "Cops" should've rendered me totally immune to the chase through the suburban neighborhood, Point Break made it exciting with the simple question of the prey's identity. Most astonishing, even though I'd seen a full movie's quota of action by the three-quarter mark, the movie still had scintillating scenes almost to the end. I feel bad for the audiences in the Summer of 1991 who would've missed Point Break amid the excitement over Terminator 2, which beat it into theaters by less than two weeks. T2's opening weekend gross beat Point Break's entire U.S. run.

Point Break also makes the list of movies that don't make Keanu Reeves look like an idiot. Although he doesn't quite have the steely reserve he used so well in Speed, Keanu never looks out of depth bringing the character to life. Incredibly enough, this is the first time I've seen Patrick Swayze in a movie, having escaped both Ghost and Dirty Dancing. As a new-wave surfer, he's perfect. John C. McGinley revitalizes the old castigation-happy law enforcement superior with deliciously incisive yelling.

 Topic 53 of 69 [movies]: Point Break
 Response 5 of 8: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Wed, Mar  6, 2002 (01:33) * 3 lines 
You can buy a used copy of this movie on for $1.45.

 Topic 53 of 69 [movies]: Point Break
 Response 6 of 8: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Wed, Mar  6, 2002 (01:38) * 1 lines 
I just bought a used dvd of Pt Break an for 7.48 including shipping. Not too bad.

 Topic 53 of 69 [movies]: Point Break
 Response 7 of 8: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Wed, Mar  6, 2002 (01:47) * 3 lines 
I have an admission to make.

I am embarassed to admit that I love this movie, it's such a lowbrow surfer flick on one level. I guess it's just one of those guilty pleasures that you have to go through. I'll work through this!

 Topic 53 of 69 [movies]: Point Break
 Response 8 of 8: Autumn  (autumn) * Tue, Mar 12, 2002 (10:41) * 1 lines 
It's the guilty pleasures that make life more enjoyable! Sometimes it's fun to embrace the lowbrow.

Prev topicNext topicHelp

movies conference Main Menu