Thursday, 21 June 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1991: Patrick Swayze in Point Break

Patrick Swayze did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bodhi in Point Break.

Point Break tells the story of FBI Agent/Former star quarterback Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) attempting to infiltrate a group of renegade surfers/bank robbers.

Now describing the plot of the film makes Point Break sound very stupid, and well it is. The thing is the film is very entertaining once again proving that often times with films it isn't so much the story, but just how you execute it. This idea needs a bit more appreciation I feel and Point Break is great example of such an approach. The pinnacle acting wise of this being 80's/early 90's heartthrob Patrick Swayze. Where Keanu Reeves is particularly out to sea in this film, his delivery of "I am a F......B.......I......Agent" being legendary in its stilted quality, he carefully surrounded by one form of madness or another in order to facilitate the film's peeling tone bro. One form of that is found in Gary Busey as his FBI partner, the other half by Swayze as half zen-master half bank robber mastermind. This is interesting casting for Swayze who typically played the romantic lead, which is somewhat in Bodhi's vein however Bodhi is distinctly a villain in terms of his actions throughout the film which offers quite an unusual presence for the character as well as just for any typical action film. In a way what Swayze does in the role was pivotal in terms of what helped to ensure Point Break was set apart from other action fair from the time.

Now Swayze is already a charismatic dude, however what he does here is to essentially to weaponize this as this absurd embodiment of a wild man charm. This evident from his first unmasked scene in less problematic circumstances where he meets up with Johnny just seemingly as a "totally tubular" surfer. Swayze though is indeed the most tubular of all surfers though just with how brimming he is with this certain indescribable ability to make the most banal philosophical lines seem absolutely poetic in some sense of the word. This is perhaps much of how the film itself is effective as Swayze's turn "owns" the ridiculousness of the concept of the character not by winking to the audience that this is stupid, but rather playing it to the deepest level of conviction. Swayze never blinks and never laughs at his character. The way he so confidently projects Bodhi's philosophy he accomplishes two things that are actually quite remarkable. One is he makes the friendship between Johnny and Bodhi wholly convincing, but he takes it a step more by honestly not coming off as a full on, well douche for the lack of a better word, as this guy who rationalizes his criminal behavior by trying to be a man who is truly "free" from it all by committing his bank robberies.

The overarching success though is form Swayze's conviction within the role to create the most intensely mellow man you will ever meet. That contradiction somehow forms this foundation that makes Bodhi far more likable than he ever had right to be. It also some creates any logic within the man's personal style which should be some antithesis. This isn't to say though that this conviction disallows variation in his performance. In fact I think Swayze's conviction adds to it greatly in moments particularly in the third act where he tries to control Johnny by kidnapping his former girlfriend/Johnny's current girlfriend to make the agent comply with him as he goes bank robbing. The actual threat moment is a great one for Swayze as he delivers his lines with that certain mellowness still even as he is threatening Johnny, however Swayze subtle realizes some uncertainty within Bodhi's eyes not in the plan but rather reflecting the man's sense that he isn't wholly comfortable in taking this path. Swayze from that point forward is effective in then showing the man attempting to maintain his sense of righteousness even as things quickly fall apart. Swayze is surprisingly astute the role in finding logic within essentially an illogical part. I especially love his performance when Bodhi goes too far in a bank robbery and finally truly gets blood on his hands. That moment Swayze is terrific in as again he maintains that delusion of being above it all yet carries enough of a doubt just in his eyes just before he goes beyond the pale. After that point though Swayze is quite good in portraying Bodhi as doubling down on his delusions, and is very good by amplifying every facet except the doubt. His interactions with Reeves are particularly, and one could argue might have certain undertones, as reveals a certain madness in Bodhi by expressing a man so full of self certainty that it becomes dangerous. He however never loses that sense of zen that he someone grants a truth to even as his actions suggests quite the opposite, to the point Swayze earns the extended epilogue in granting Bodhi his desired demise since he's made come to understand his ways as odd as they are. Swayze's work is weird to be sure, and strange performance in many ways, honestly it is hard to see how anyone else could have made Bodhi work as well as he does other than Swayze who has just the right menace, swagger, and style needed for the role in this film.


Calvin Law said...

This was such an interesting year for Keanu. Bill and Ted 2, Point Break, My Private Idaho. Love hin in the former, and though he's technically pretty bad in both, he's strangely endearing in his badness.

Swayze is very good here though my favourite thing about the film is how it was referenced in Hot Fuzz.

Calvin Law said...

Also, your thoughts on Bigelow's direction Louis?

Robert MacFarlane said...

If he was alive now, I'm convinced he'd be in his grizzled character actor stage of his career.

Louis Morgan said...


Have you ever fired your gun in the air while going AHHHH?

Bigelow's direction is honestly fantastic, and is particularly essential to the film's success. The whole of idea of the "EXTREME" style was a common enough thing attempted in the 90's yet Bigelow puts most other attempts at that to shame. Now one reason being that she does it a whole lot better whether it be the terrific handheld work in the foot chase, the intensity of every shootout, and how well she captures that kinetic energy needed for the story. What really makes it stand out, other than the daring such as showing Swayze literally fall out of a plane so viscerally, but she does know to bring some quiet moments in there such as the ring moment during the first sky diving sequence.