Point Break (1991) [Female Filmmaker Friday] 

A group of high adrenaline seekers robbing banks has attracted the attention of the F.B.I. who sends their new recruit undercover to join the gang and help dismantle them. 

Written officially by Rick King and W. Peter Iliff, with uncredited rewrites by Kathryn Bigelow, who also directed, and James Cameron, Point Break is now a classic of action cinema and one of undercover cops/agents that is referenced with reverence in Hot Fuzz and “borrowed” from in The Fast and the Furious (at least in broad strokes and thematically). This film is one that went through a lot of planning and training for the cast and crew so that actors could do their own stunts, may they be fights, surfing, or sky diving. Director Bigelow had a very clear vision of what she wanted to bring to the screen and she did an excellent job of it. Does the film scream early 1990s? Absolutely. Has it aged well? Well, mostly. There are some issues, a few things in the script could use being changed, and some of the filming is a bit dated, but it’s one fun movie that doesn’t let the viewer go once they are in. This is one of those films that is fun and entertaining and doesn’t care what you think as long as what you want is exactly what it has to offer. The high energy script and style are something that is not often repeated with this kind of success, but often attempted. It’s a perfect summer movie, a film about people chasing adrenaline and robbing banks to be able to do so. The undercover F.B.I. agent plot is almost secondary to the stunts and camaraderie the wants to bring to the screen and does. The film is far from perfect, but it’s perfectly entertaining. 

The cast here which almost had Johnny Depp as Johnny Utah is solid. Patrick Swayze was a huge star back then and also an avid fan of extreme sports, so he wanted to do his own stunts. Keanu Reeves was more known for serious or teenager parts, so this was a departure for him and he took it as serious as we now expect him to take any part. He learned to surf for the film and did some of his own stunts as well. Lori Petty who was a fantastic choice to match these guys also learned how to surf. Swayne brought Gary Busey sky diving. This was a fully committed cast and it shows in the film. They all give decent performances and made the film what it is today. Their work was solid in that they all wanted to give their all and did. The performances are fun to watch and solid in spots. They aren’t perfect, but they are perfectly on point for this film. 

Now, the stunts that are so well captured by Kathryn Bigelow’s vision. These are the main reason to watch this film. From foot chases on the streets of Los Angeles to surfing to sky diving to fight sequences, there’s everything in here. The fact that most of the cast wanted to do their own stunts as much as possible shows in the film here, it shows that they really wanted to have this be as believable as possible. The cast of stunt people here is huge and includes even Jeff Imada who has worked on some of the best action films out there (hello Rapid Fire). The work done here under stunt coordinator Glenn R. Wilder are a big part of why this movie is so popular and a recent rewatch proves them to still be exciting and fun.  

Point Break is one of many films where Kathryn Bigelow shows an affinity for action sequences and show that she can direct like few others. Her work is solid throughout her career as can be seen in Near Dark, Strange Days, Zero Dark Thirty, and so many more. Point Break feels like a great starting point for anyone who wants to jump in and get to know her work. Also, as a side note, this film knew they were going to get a higher rating, so they let loose on the language and there are 105 instances of the “F” word being used and unless you’re really paying attention, you probably won’t even notice most of them.