Directed By: Kathryn Bigelow
Written By: Rick King and W. Peter Iliff (story) Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron (screenplay)
When it comes to adrenaline fueled action films there are few that are as fun as this one. As I have always said, the cool factor is important in any film, especially in a mindless exaggerated action flick. Being cool in an action movie is as important as being scary in a horror film. This movie not only has the cool factor but all along the way there is shooting, surfing, and skydiving. What more could you want? With a cast that screams the early 1990s and a great filmmaking duo this film never fails to entertain. Despite being a household favorite while I was growing up this was never a movie I intended to own because I always considered it a bit silly. Yet it found its way into the collection anyway when I bought it as a gift for my brother a year or so ago for Christmas and just decided to assimilate into the collective instead. I specifically remember wrapping the gift for him and reflecting on the film as I did so. I thought to myself “this is a cool movie, why do I have a stick up my ass about it?” and before I knew it I was fitting it onto the shelf in the “P” section.
It’s true that I do have a certain mentality about this type of movie today. I don’t even watch the mindless action flicks that are coming out anymore but I appreciate the ones that I grew up with. When our collection was smaller I had a smug attitude about the films that would be part of it and I felt it was too good to be sullied by silly action films like this. As the collection grew it absorbed plenty of movies that made that line of thinking moot and there was no reason to deny this movie. This movie is cool and it is fun. As entertaining as any cops and robbers film and plenty of films have since ripped off exactly what this movie did. As I started to wrap this movie up for my brother years ago I thought about all of this and decided there was no need to waste it on him. I had already bought the DVD, might as well just keep it for myself because I had a place for it. I had suddenly realized it belonged and I couldn’t send it away to collect dust on some other shelf as part of an insignificant collection of films that had no purpose. I am such an compulsive person when it comes to collecting things and would it not be for my wife I would most likely be the worst kind of packrat. I channel all that type of insanity into this movie collection and for me it embodies something that has taken on a life of it’s own.
This movie always reminds me of my stepdad. While we differ in this way, my stepdad and stepbrother have always been thrill seekers. I, as a naturally clumsy and accident prone person, steer clear of activities involving such obvious opportunity for risk and embarrassment. They on the other hand have always been fearless in the face of danger and when I was about 15 or 16 my stepdad went skydiving for the first time. This involved many nights both before and after where as a family we all sat down to films like Drop Zone, a few of the Roger Moore James Bond pics, and of course Point Break. It was much more fun before the actual skydiving because seeing these movies afterwards in round two consisted of nonstop talk about how unrealistic it was. First time around I had no idea that you didn’t have time for all kinds of acrobatics as you fell through the sky. I was completely innocent of how ridiculous the notion of jumping out of a plane without a parachute was. I knew deep down such a thing was ridiculous but it was still cool to see Johnny Utah jump out of the plane without a chute to chase down Bodhi through the air. After all, I had seen Roger Moore as James Bond do it several times when I was growing up. It was kind of a buzzkill to watch it in round two and hear all about how this wasn’t right and that wasn’t possible. Who cares what is and isn’t possible when watching a movie like this anyway? The skydiving scenes in this movie are about as cool as they get, and as a person who intends to always stay grounded I at least like to imagine such things could really be so cool.
The cast of this movie is like a snapshot of 1991. Looking at it today the young movie watcher might scratch his head and wonder but back in 1991 it all made so much sense. In 1991 Patrick Swayze still had his youthful good looks, Gary Busey wasn’t insane, and Lori Petty as a leading lady was something that happened. I have never been a fan of Patrick Swayze but I’ll give him credit where it is due. This was easily one of his best roles and he fit the part of Bodhi perfectly. I read somewhere that he was an actual accomplished skydiver prior to the making of this movie. If that’s true it’s not only pretty cool but made him an even better fit for the role. I wonder what young people today, who watch this movie for the first time, think about seeing Gary Busey play this part. The Gary Busey they know today is not the guy we had 24 years ago. I am told he didn’t become this crazy Gary Busey until some accident he had some time back when he sustained a head injury. I don’t know about that one way or another but I’d find it hard to believe Busey’s current persona isn’t just the result of having done copious amounts of drugs. I admire how well the man markets himself these days but I just don’t care for it. It seems fake and intentional to me. I much more preferred the Gary Busey of old like the one we see in this film. As for Lori Petty, well I have just never understood. She had a few significant roles in the early 90s but I have never really liked her. She has a really whiny tone to her voice and her persona always gets under my skin, especially in this movie.
Keanu Reeves is still finding success as an actor today but I can’t imagine how he got the role in this movie back in 1991. It seems like an awfully progressive idea to take Ted and turn him into an action star but it worked. I wonder if his obvious practice at using surfer type lingo played into the decision at all. Had he not done so well in this role so many things might have been different in the future with movies like Speed and The Matrix. One of my favorite actors from the time was in this movie as the over the top asshole boss. John C. McGinley is one of those actors who can do just about anything and I have always liked him in these types of supporting roles. If I remember correctly he went on to play nearly the exact same role from this film in one of the many films that followed in the footsteps of Point Break, Set It Off. After Point Break nearly all heist movies looked for new cooler ways to mask their bank robbers, and Set It Off was no different. Correct me if I’m wrong about Set It Off, it’s been almost 20 years since I saw it in the theater and I’m surprised I remember it as much as I do.
James Cameron served as Executive Producer for this film and his wife at the time, eventual Academy Award winning Kathryn Bigelow, directed the film. I read somewhere that they also wrote the final version of the screenplay together although weren’t listed because of a dispute over the credit. I have grown up as a huge fan of anything James Cameron was involved with and still marvel at his film making abilities today. We will all have nearly forgotten about how awesome Avatar was by the time the next one comes out and that will be perfect timing for Cameron to remind us who he is. I think the whole point of Avatar is lost if you try to watch it at home but that’s only part of what makes it so incredible. In an era when movie theaters are suffering, James Cameron made something that was necessary to see in the movie theater to get the whole effect of it. I don’t get out to the theater anymore like I did when I was younger and the same was true in 2009. Yet I made it out to see Avatar times because it was something to make exception for. I will certainly do the same when the sequels eventually come out too because I have faith that Cameron will blow our minds ago. This movie doesn’t involve the same type of special effects he is known for using but Cameron has a great mind for action sequences. His influence undoubtedly played a role in this movie as it offers several action packed scenes that are exceptional. Incidentally, James Cameron is a filmmaker who appreciates the value of the “cool factor.” Of course this movie is cool, James Cameron had a hand in it. Whether the guy is dressing Arnold Schwarzenegger in all black leather or putting Sigourney Weaver in a giant robot suit he knows how to make something better by making it look cool.
This movie has been remade and that is a travesty. I don’t think the movie has come out as of this post but I remember a few years ago when the idea was announced I was incredibly disappointed. I don’t know which asshole in the movie industry is pitching these awful ideas but I wish he/she would get fired. I specifically remember that this movie was referred to as a “timeless classic” in the announcement that it would be remade. Who thinks it is a good idea to remake a “timeless classic”? It’s timeless because it will always be entertaining. Why sully its name with some kind of knock off version that will never live up to what people have already enjoyed for over 20 years? It’s ridiculous and lazy. These executives are reaching when they can’t do anything better than remaking or rebooting something just to capitalize on the name recognition. They think we, as the audience, are stupid and they treat us as such. They are ruining movies in vain by making foolish efforts to sell more tickets. They want to sell tickets to kids so they pussify something to get the PG-13 rating. They’ll abandon new ideas because we are too stupid to be interested in something new and instead they simply remake something with a name we might recognize and turn out for. On one end I get it, home entertainment is killing the industry and these guys got to do what they can to make a buck. I think it is the wrong way to do it. Don’t ruin classics by remaking them but find new and inventive ways to get people in the theaters, like James Cameron did when he made Avatar. That kind of thing costs a lot more money though, so the studios cheap out and do what is easy. Ruin something to make more money or make a weak effort to format it into 3D so the ticket prices are higher. What a waste. Bottom line: don’t waste time watching the remake of this movie people, just watch the original because it’s a good movie and there’s nothing wrong with it.
I have seen this movie more times than I can count. Yet when I sat down to watch it for this review I found myself just as sucked in as I was the first time. That says everything about how good this movie is. It’s a fun movie that doesn’t get old, it’s a “timeclass classic.” After everything else that I have said it goes without saying that I think this movie is worth your time. I am even happier now than I was before that I decided to keep this movie for the collection. There is no reason to turn your nose up to something when it’s something you will enjoy. Some movies are made to make statements and teach lessons but others do only what movies were originally intended for, they just entertain and there is nothing wrong with that.
NEXT MOVIE: Poltergeist (1982)