Days of Summer #1: Kathryn Bigelow’s “Point Break” (1991)

Point BreakIn my book, there’s a distinct difference between “Summer Movies” and “Movies to Watch During Summer”, although they’re not mutually exclusive terms. While the term “Summer Movie” denotes a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster released during the months of May, June, July, or August, it is typically the case that these films have very little to do with the actual season. In this new feature, I’ll be ranting and raving about my favorite “Movies to Watch During Summer”, to anybody who cares to listen.

    In my mind, the best movies to watch during summertime need to meet the following criteria:

•  The film must be set during the season of summer, preferably right after school gets out or on the Fourth of July. The more times this is awkwardly hammered home in dialogue, the better.

• The film must either affirm or subvert the summertime ideals we hold most true. Is summer loving not what it’s cracked up to be, John Cusack? Tell us why!

• The film must be entertaining enough to hold up after repeated viewings, and also be totally bereft of subtlety.

My first film in the Days of Summer series, incidentally, nails all three.

Point Break
Point Break (1991, Dir: Kathryn Bigelow)

The best way to describe Point Break to the uninitiated is this: it’s a combination of every awesome, extreme thing you can think of:

Bank robbery √
Surfing √
Parachuting √
Parachuting without a chute √
Football on the beach √
Patrick Swayze getting radical √
Throwing pitbulls at people √
Shooting guns in the air and screaming √
Blowing up cars √
Ordering TWO meatball sandwiches √
Gary Busey

In the film, Keanu Reeves is at his wooden best as Johnny Utah, an F… B… I… AGENT tasked with tracking down a gang of bank robbers who may just be surfers too. So before you can say “whoa”, Utah is on the case, infiltrating the fraternal world of extreme surfing, and coming into conflict with Bodhi, a zen-like surfmaster played to the hilt by Patrick Swayze in a career-topping performance. Which is saying a lot if you’ve seen Road House.

There is literally never a dull moment in Point Break. It’s wall to wall with shootouts, surfing, Gary Busey, death-defying stunts, psuedo-Buddhist wisdom, hilarious one-liners, and Gary Busey. Did I say surfing twice?

The film is directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who is best known for her Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker, another great action movie about yet another loner adrenaline junkie who also views mortal danger as the ultimate narcotic, sacrificing everyone around him to get his fix. But with respect to Hurt Locker’s Jeremy “Don’t Call Me Bourne” Renner, it was Swayze who planted the flag first, and it’s one of the most memorable and enduring performances in any action film.

Best Way to Watch: VHS is the way to go. Get a bunch of gnarly dudes and righteous babes together and watch on a sand-clogged VCR hooked to an ancient Trinitron color TV set.

Best Paired With: A six pack of Corona or Pacifico (w/ lime) and two meatball sandwiches. Oh, and Utah? Gimme two.

Further Viewing: Every fan of Point Break should check out Point Break Live, a hilarious and wildly entertaining stage version of the film that recently popped up again in San Francisco at the DNA Lounge. If you’re lucky, you can be selected to play the immortal Johnny Utah for the evening!


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Categories: Features, Reviews

2 Comments on “Days of Summer #1: Kathryn Bigelow’s “Point Break” (1991)”

  1. Lawrence Chadbourne
    May 16, 2014 at 9:11 am #

    Sean: It’s my favorite Bigelow (though I haven’t steeled myself yet to watch Zero Dark Thirty) Your list leaves out one of my favorite motifs: Robbers committing crimes while wearing masks making fun of different Presidents, I look forward to an update with a crook wearing an Obama mask!


  1. Days of Summer #7: John Milius’ “Big Wednesday” (1978) | - June 27, 2014

    […] Further Viewing: As good as it is, Big Wednesday is just the second best surfer film co-starring Gary Busey. Go ahead, watch Point Break again. You know you want to. […]

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