Point Break

Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze in Point Break


A movie for every day of the year – a good one



22 October



World’s first parachute jump, 1797

On this day in 1797, André-Jacque Garnerin made the first descent by frameless parachute. Ascending from the Parc Monceau in a basket attached to what looked like a large furled umbrella, itself attached to a balloon, Garnerin got to around 900 metres (3,000 feet) before unpacking the chute and severing a cord attaching him to the balloon. His descent was ungainly and his basket fell rapidly and swung wildly. He arrived back on the ground with a thump but unhurt. Garnerin was not the first person to dabble with the parachute however. There are pictures from the mid 15th century in the Codex Atlanticus of Leonardo Da Vinci which show what has since been proved to be a workable design for a parachute, and one from 1470 by an unknown person of a man suspended below what looks like a a cone-shaped contraption which looks like a parachute but which wouldn’t have broken his fall very well (the “chute” in the word parachute being the fall, and the “para” meaning protection). However Garnerin is the first recorded instance of it having been done with what we would today recognise as a parachute and so wins the prize. His daring feat caused a sensation and made his name. Garnerin was later named Official Aeronaut of France and toured England, making one ascent from Lord’s Cricket Ground and arriving, reportedly, in Chingford 15 minutes later. Considering it’s 17 miles away (27.4km) there must have been one hell of a side wind that day, or someone has embellished the facts.



Point Break (1991, dir: Kathryn Bigelow)

Here we are in 1991, when Keanu Reeves was Lovely Keanu, young, surferish, just a bit Bill & Ted still, waiting for the next phase (which came with Speed) of his dance with fame. Point Break is a key film in his career, as it was in the career of Patrick Swayze, who went from Dirty Dancing to Road House to this, and then…
It’s also a major film for Kathryn Bigelow, transitioning between the pop-smart vampire flick Near Dark, the girl-in-jeopardy cop flick Blue Steel and into limbo until The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty reminded the world how good she was. So, Point Break, a kinda dumb, kinda mad film about an FBI rookie inflitrating an LA surfer gang who pull off bank jobs in their spare time, disguised in American presidents’ masks. Heading the gang is Swayze, as Bodhi, a Zen surf master, bank robber and sky diver. Swayze is always good for some easy laughs, but he is actually a lot better than that ridiculous surf/rob/jump precis suggests. The film is best known for its shots of surfer guys riding waves, and sky divers freefalling to earth, but it’s noticeable at this distance how much energy Bigelow puts into even the most basic sequences, while Reeves and Swayze both do their best with a script that’s a full wheel of cheese. With Point Break it’s full marks to the hairstylists, the body doubles (though Swayze did a lot if not all of his own skydiving) and California for being California, dude.



Why Watch?


  • Keanu and Swayze in their prime
  • Who says women can’t direct action?
  • Gary Busey and John McGinley adding flavoursome support
  • A soundtrack of old-school rock including Jimi Hendrix, Love, Deep Purple


© Steve Morrissey 2013



Point Break – at Amazon





Dirty Dancing

The lake scene from Dirty Dancing, with Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze


A movie for every day of the year – a good one



14 September



Patrick Swayze dies, 2009


On this day in 2009, Patrick Swayze shimmied off to the great dance studio in the sky. 1991’s “sexiest man alive” (according to People magazine) had been propelled to that position by 1987’s Dirty Dancing, a position he reinforced with the ridiculous 1989 bouncer movie Road House – in which he plays the sensitive PhD slumming it as the hired muscle in a one-horse town. Not forgetting 1990’s Ghost, in which his spirit threw beautiful clay pots with Demi Moore. Or Point Break, playing the Buddhist surfing bank robber. A dancer by training, with the physique to match, Swayze seemed to do best in films that defy logic at least slightly. Perhaps it was his sincere focus, which for the viewer allows either immersive or ironic enjoyment of what was on offer. Or in the case of Dirty Dancing, a bit of both.


Dirty Dancing (1987, dir: Emile Ardolino)

Designed to make the briefest of theatrical runs before heading off to life in the video shops, Dirty Dancing picked up interest as soon as it debuted, becoming a word of mouth hit. It is the story of a girl called Baby (Jennifer Gray) and her transition to womanhood thanks to the tutelage of a dance instructor (Patrick Swayze) at a Catskills holiday camp. Old fashioned, it features a nice girl and a bad boy, no sex but lots of longing, songs from the jukebox era plus one old-sounding new song, The Time of My Life, sung by Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley (who had been a jukebox era star, with his fellow Righteous Brother). The critics on the whole didn’t like it. But that’s possibly because they didn’t endorse what its audience were telling them – they were ready, happy, for their culture to start looking backwards. Dirty Dancing announced the arrival of the retro-directed Dancing with the Stars/Strictly Come Dancing era five years even before Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom did that in a more official, headline-grabbing fashion. Or maybe that’s all hooey and audiences went to see it because Swayze could really dance. And in an era when almost no star could any more, he found himself the sole provider in a hungry market.



Why Watch?


  • Swayze hoists Gray aloft while both are wringing wet – a classic dance moment
  • “No one puts baby in the corner” – a classic line of dialogue
  • Swayze’s hair – a classic mullet


© Steve Morrissey 2013



Dirty Dancing – at Amazon