Ah, my famous franchise retrospecting has returned! And now, debuting on my own my own site is THE FAST & THE FURIOUS retrospective! Join me looking back as we edge closer to FAST & FURIOUS 6 opening May 24th.
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, Lori Petty, John C. McGinley, Gary Busey, James LeGros
You gotta go down. You crossed the line and people trusted you and they died.
So…you’re doing a Fast & The Furious retrospective and you’re starting with Point Break? Of course I am. The genesis of the first film in the Fast & The Furious franchise begins here. The outline and overall narrative of Point Break is almost beat for beat repeated in The Fast & The Furious. You’re basically trading in surf boards for street racing cars. Watching them back to back, its even more apparent.
How’s Point Break hold up? I had only seen this movie maybe twice before viewing it for this retrospective. A lot of people have championed it over the years. And, as a serious piece of action cinema, it doesn’t quite hold together. But as a film with stylistic flare that’s goofy, over the top with everyone going big, its still an entertaining watch. It’s a funny piece of time-capsuled late 80s/early 90s action.
The first thing that struck me with this film is how far Keanu Reeves has come as an actor. No no no…I’m serious! He gives an absolutely, hysterically laughable performance it here. In some ways it completely carries the movie. Every choice his is comically overdone. Its almost a shear work of brilliance. We’re supposed to believe this guy is from small town Ohio, yet he’s dialect sounds straight of an SNL “The Californians” sketch. I so BADLY wanted him to give someone directions.
The rest of the cast turns up fun. Shockingly enough, the only person playing it sort of straight and not taking it incredibly over the top is, of all people, Gary Busey. But where he holds back John C McGinley swings for the fences. Lori Petty gives a nice, adorable performance even if the script asks her character to be completely stupid at times. I also couldn’t get over how much she resembled Courtney Cox. Although, at this point in their careers, I guess I’d say Courtney Cox resembled her.
Patrick Swayze actually turns in a really good performance here. He is even able to convey and sell his performance merely with his eyes at times (he wears a mask during portions of the film). He manages to make Bodhi likeable and make it all the more disappointing that he is the film’s villain (since Keanu is unable to). There’s a sense of dread and menace Swayze is able to switch on at the point in the film when both sides are aware of others intentions.
Once the jig is up between Bodhi and Utah we get to the portion of the film that actually works really well. We sit waiting for someone to make a move, even though we know its likely going to be Bodhi. Kathryn Bigelow directs her follow up to Blue Steel and is able, in the nutty film to create a sequence that reigns suspenseful even if the film hasn’t been taken seriously to this point. The film features a lot of stylishly flashy surfing scenes that I think may have inspired a young Michael Bay to make a career out of. The action scenes are very much grounded and quite a bit graphic. In the over the top department, the film does include some wonderful aerial work as a part of some of its “wow” moments. It might be a bit much, but its still impressive to see and fun to enjoy.
Okay okay, Brandon…get to the Fast & The Furious stuff. All right, right down to a our undercover officers both ordering tuna sandwiches from their love interests tied to the film’s main villains, we have a lot of similarities. Both stories are basically young fresh blood police officers going undercover to infiltrate and expose a group of robbers and in the process getting too close and unable to make appropriate judgment calls. Its probably a product of bad acting, but Paul Walker is INCREDBILY channeling his inner Keanu. Point Break offers surfers robbing banks and Fast & Furious has streetracers robbing semis. Both live and die by their craft, making car or surfing analogies every waking moment of life. The film’s leads both get in a relationship with a woman very close to the villain that ultimately is the thing clouding their judgment, making them slightly choose the crooks over the cops. Johnny Utah and Brian O’Conner both so badly want this other rival gang to be the real bad guys and lead a bust on them that proves incredibly wrong only more hammering home what they don’t want to be true. Also, the conclusion of the films both share the detective letting the crime boss walk.
As you can see, there are major similarities. There a more, but I’ve not set out to chart all of them. This was to take a look back at the film that brought the beginnings of The Fast & The Furious. I’m willing to bet it was pitched at the studio as “Point Break with cool cars!”
-A little bit about No Man’s Land-
Also, in my Fast & Furious research, this little film from 1986 is being credited with the birth of The Fast & The Furious. While there are elements in play (certainly the undercover cop falls for the crime boss’s sister being key), the obvious riff for The Fast & The Furious is Point Break. It’s clearly the movie its trying to reinvent. No Man’s Land isn’t for a big loss though. It might just be the best and most grounded has the best peformed drama of the three films. Its fun to see actors like Charlie Sheen and Randy Quaid during a time when they were looked upon in a more serious light. This movie is actually kinda fun nostalgic 80s watch if you’ve got the time. DB Sweeney probably puts the best work in between him, Keanu and Paul Walker. To be honest, I didn’t even know this movie existed until this retrospective. I’ll probably never watch it again, but I mildly enjoyed it.
Next Up: The Fast & The Furious
Paul Walker grins at the camera, Vin Diesel’s shouting sounds like Ja Rule’s rapping, Corona’s and TED LEVINE!