A Disquisition Concerning the Elements and Qualities of Point-Break, with Regard to Its Æsthetick and Historickal Status as a Work of Awesomeness Unbridl’d
1) The Dichotomie of Bad Boys the Second and Point-Break, Represent’d in a Pair of Image-Files
The Knowledge that Mʳ Edgar Wright brings to the Genre styl’d Contemporary Action Movie is of such Depth and Extent that Which He Does Not Know, may be said to be not Worth the Knowing. Therefore, in the Film’d Entertainment Hot Fuzz, wherein Police Constable Danny Butterman cites Bad Boys the Second and Point-Break as the Canonickal works of the aforementioned Genre, we are Behooved to regard such a Statement with the greatest Attention and Consideration. Both, fair to say, may be describ’d as “undeniably adrenaline-fueled Thrill-Rides (that would, however, incur substantial Amounts of Paper-Work)”, yet, past this, the Films and their Directors must be considered fundamentally in Opposition to each other. Consider, now, the following Images extracted from the Whole of their respective movies; consider also that both Extractions are from their respective movie’s initial Scene:
As in much of the Cosmos referred to as the Bay-verse, the moment depicted can be caption’d Humiliation. (The Character portrayed by Mʳ Lawrence has just had his Buttock impacted by a projectile fired by his partner, portrayed by Mʳ Will Smith. This is detail’d in the aggressive Slow-Motion for which the Director Mʳ Michael Bay is well-known.) That Humiliation extends from the Posterior of Mʳ Lawrence to the Supporting Cast, the Extras, the Settings (may the Lord preserve you if Mʳ Bay chooses to set a Scene in yʳ Favela, yet you must be considered at Fault for self-Domiciling there in the first place), the Story, ultimately to the Characters, and the Outer Sphere of the Audience as well. It must be said that Mʳ Bay’s Means of humiliation are vast, and Inventive: plotting that may Charitably be denoted as Non-Sensickal; damage incurred on the Sensitive Regions of the Anatomy (and constant Reminders of same); a stream (or perhaps Gusher) of Urine-like Fluid from a Robot, landing upon an Actor; other Robots conversing in a Dialeckt that must be considered, by the Standards of this or any other Time, horribly racist; or a Cad displaying a Laminat’d carte du jure indicating the Circum-stances under which a young Maiden may be subject to a Violation considered Legal. Mʳ Bay well knows that he can Achieve such things without the fear of Consequence, as the humiliat’d Audience, will, of course, return for more, and pay for the priv’lege; on the set of the Biblically disappointing Armageddon, he cloth’d himself in a Garment brand’d with the Slogan Just Trust the Box Office, Guys. Mʳ Bay’s Contempt for All (including, one must suspect, himself) waxes greater with each movie, loosely call’d.
In Contrast, the Succession of Images here, and the movie Entire, depicts Joy; in point of plain fact, a Joy unbounded by Reason or Self-Consciousness. Young Mʳ Reeves here is Happy, without Guard or Limit or Intelleckt, and the Lady Kathryn Bigelow will sustain this unique Tone through to Point-Break’s astonishing Finish. In our critickal Discourse, the Term “Stupid Fun Action Movie” is too often deployed as Insult, when it is simply Description; and the Lady Kathryn and her able Cast and Crew amply fulfill all three Modifiers in the Term above. From her debut film The Love-less onward, the Lady has never treated her material with the method of Parody, nor has she considered herself elevated with respect to that material. It is her sense of Commitment, a range of Commitment equal to (to speak true, more likely greater than) Mʳ Bay’s Contempt, a Commitment to all the Elements of Point-Break–inclusive of the Characters, their World-Views, the partickular Beauty that is specific to the beaches and landscapes of the Region known as the South-land–that makes this movie, which prima facie should be an Ignoble Failure, better suited for the yearly Awards known as the Razzies than any kind of Remembrance, quite possibly her greatest Success.
2.1) In Which the Performance (Loosely Call’d) of Mʳ Keanu Reeves Is Seen as Essential to the Whole
Let us speak truthfully of such Matters: at this Juncture of his Career, Mʳ Reeves could not be considered an Actor of a calibre of Cromulence; at first Observation, one would be tempted to style his performances as Incompetent. His arrival at Fame rested ‘most entirely upon the Portrayal of those Citizens styl’d Stoners, or Slackers; thus rend’ring the Choice of Casting of him as a Special Agent of the Federal Government, one whose singular Characteristic is an all-encompassing Intensity, an Endeavour most Questionable, if not Quixotic. Yet, by the strange Alchemy that the Lady Kathryn brews ‘mongst all the Elements in her ambit, a Performance that might be term’d Leaden is in fact transmut’d into Gold.
Mʳ Reeves’ Performance here, to reiterate, would not be term’d Professional, but it does possess the surpassing Virtue of Honesty. His Failures as a Performer do not arise from Pretension, nor from any Attempt to force emotion; he may be nam’d as a weak Actor, but never a false one. A Director of Mʳ Reeves must know how to Employ not merely his Skills, but his lack thereof; indeed, a Talent common to all great Directors is their ability to adapt their Materials to the Task at hand. (The other great Use of Mʳ Reeves in this era, of course, was by the Siblings Wachowski in their Ontologickal Spectackle The Matrix. Playing less a Character than a Systematic Error of the kind first describ’d by Dʳ Gödel, Mʳ Reeves brought a Lack of Will to the part that no other Actor could have achieved.) When Mʳ Reeves is happy, Mʳ Johnny Utah is happy, as demonstrated in the Succession of Images previously referenced; when Mʳ Reeves does not care, that lack may equally be seen on the Countenance of Mʳ Utah. In moments that could be call’d Perfunctory, Mʳ Reeves’ lack of Care in fact increases their Oddity; in moments of great Intensity, the sudden Over-Commitment of Mʳ Utah to his Passion startles us, in a Catharsis reminiscent of classick Tragedy. One does not realize the young Gentleman had the blood of such Emotion within him. (I do of course refer, among other Scenes, to the Firing of the Gun at the Firmament and the subsequent Cry of Aaaaaaaaa, which shall of necessity be considered later in this Disquisition.)
2.2) The Thesis, Stated Plainly
The Greatness, indeed that specific quality of Greatness denot’d Awesome, of Point-Break, a Greatness that has already been proven to Endure, not just through the Approbation of the aforementioned Mʳ Wright, but also through the contemporary Curse of a Re-Make of no artistic Currency or Necessity, may be seen in the Metonym of Mʳ Reeves’ Performance. Expanding from the Part to the Whole, this Greatness may be summarized thus: the Lady Kathryn has crafted a film that is not merely honestly Ridiculous, it is also ridiculously Honest. The French author (for I shall only acknowledge the existence of One of them in that Nation of Pretentious Frauds) speaks that “one must risk the Ridiculous to achieve the Sublime”; rather than risking Ridicule, the Lady Kathryn pursues it, revels in it, as if Ridicule were a set of ocean Waves that the surfers of the South-land designate as Perfect. The resultant Experience of watching this Film is much the same as being caught in such a Wave, or Set thereof (and yʳ Chronicl’r speaks here entirely from his History): one’s Expectations, like one’s Balance, are continually upset; one suffers Laughter and Surprise without the Experience ever being diminish’d one Iota; alloyed to all of this, as Carbon may be alloyed to Iron to create the most versatile metal Steel, one is profoundly Moved.
3) The Apotheosis of Mʳ Patrick Swayze
Moving now from the Whole to the Part, let us consider the Antagonist to Mʳ Utah, the Bodhisattva of the Community of Surfers, referred to in the Universe of Point-Break in abbreviated Form as Mʳ Bodhi, and his Representation by Mʳ Swayze. (Let us also not forget that Mʳ Swayze has been remov’d from this our Mortal Coil far too soon. Many of his depths as a Performer had remained untapp’d; it is the Wish of yʳ Chronicl’r that he could have essayed the portrayal of Mʳ Michael Wolfmann in the filmed Adaptation of the Novel Inherent Vice, by Mʳ Thomas Pynchon; a Novel, it must be said, that has more than a few Points of Connection with the Film under present Discussion.) In addition to the obvious Monetary benefits, the Casting of Mʳ Swayze and Mʳ Reeves has a certain Logick within this fictional Universe: Mʳ Bodhi and Mʳ Utah are considered as Celebrities within this partickular Culture, and the quality known as Star-Power adheres to both gentlemen, as Actors and with their respective Characters.
As much as Mʳ Reeves was known for his Portrayal of the Slacker (if, indeed, it was a Portrayal at all), Mʳ Swayze was known for a level of Beauty that, quite frankly and even at a Remove of these intervening decades, can only be describ’d as Shocking. At the time, it seem’d not only a Contract’ral Requirement but mere good Cinema-Photographic practice, to make sure that each Appearance of Mʳ Swayze in a film should entail at least one Scene where he was Denuded of his upper Garment. In addition to his considerable physickal Attributes, Mʳ Swayze was possessed of a Grace and Calm that could be styl’d Preternatural; his motions, even in the Act of depriving an Enemy of his most needed Esophagus, were those of a Dance, never-ending. For a further Enlightenment upon this topick, the Reader is directed to the following Missive, upon a Web-Site that is, of course, our Distant and now Embarrassing Ancestor–altho’ it must be noted that this Missive–“The Way of the Swayze: How to be a Thoughtful Hunk”–belongs to the long-past Glorious Era of its own History.
The Qualities of Beauty, Calm, and Grace are all present in the Portrayal of Mʳ Bodhi; as the Hindoo-derived Anonym of the Character implies, he must in fact embody this Trinity. And yet, just as the Lady Kathryn finds an original and effective Use for the Amateurish Tactics (or Lack thereof) of Mʳ Reeves, so does she also create a hitherto unseen character Texture for Mʳ Swayze. In both cases, rather than insisting upon her portrayers to move outside their cultivated Personae, she chooses to High-Light elements that were already Present, yet remain’d Unexploited by film-makers previous. In the preceding year, exemplia gratia, Mʳ Swayze had appeared in the Supernatural-Romance Ghost (perhaps, in def’rence to a most Learned and Perceptive Colleague, it should be referr’d to as Jerry Zucker’s Birth); throughout his Countenance was as fair and unmark’d as it had been through the decade of his Debut, by common Agreement referr’d to as “the 80s” (this of course is the time of Chronologers, and not Mʳ Swayze’s own Age. My readers know well my abhorrence of Confusion), though his character was, through the Substantial part of said film’s Duration, not among the Living. (Rarely has the phrase “make a good-looking Corpse” been interpreted in such a literal Manner.) Yet in Point-Break, at least a Decade seems to have Transpir’d since the Filming of Ghost. The Lady Kathryn bestows upon him the sun-bleached Hair common to those of the South-land, in partickular those who spend their time in or near the salty Waters, an unshaven Countenance, and a Wardrobe which anticipates another Iconickal Resident of the Locale, Mʳ Jeffery Lebowski, the Lesser, in the near-eponymous film of a few Years hence.
What the Lady Kathryn achieves with Mʳ Swayze’s Inhabitation of Mʳ Bodhi, more than any lesser Accomplishment, is a character who inspires a certain Level of Fear, based on the Disjunct ‘twixt Mʳ Bodhi’s Affect, and his Actions; said Disjunct, and therefore the describ’d Fear, shall both escalate throughout the Duration of the film. In his Introduction, Mʳ Bodhi appears simply as a Classic model of the Surfers of the South-land: defined by neither worry nor concern, but by the Lack thereof. Even when subject to an overly aggressive Tackle by Mʳ Utah, he dismisses it with great Equanimity, seeming in fact to be Proud to be run into the surf by a player of Mʳ Utah’s history and Prowess. Yet as the Story begins to take hold of the characters, and the Intensity of events increases (and there are few Directors who can raise that Intensity to such a Degree, or with the Precision, as the Lady Kathryn; this is another topick that must be addressed in this Disquisition, and soon), Mʳ Swayze seems to also increase in his Calm, and his Detachment; he seems almost Bemus’d at the Threats upon his person, and everyone Else’s. One is reminded of the oldest Samurai, the wizened Kyuzo, in Seven-Samurai, another Character whose level of Skill, and his Commitment to same, placed him on a different Plane of Being than any other figure in the story; and one whose Carriage included no small amount of Humor, directed at lesser Mortals. Mʳ Bodhi’s indifference to Life, beginning with his Own, is Genuine, and this makes him, with little Subtilty, quite Terrifying, and no less Humorous: when Mʳ Reeves asserts, loudly and yet without inflection, “Bodhi, I am an F. B. I. Agent” (one can hear the Marks of Punctuation), Mʳ Swayze seems to think that is about the most enjoyable News of the Day. (Perhaps Mʳ Bodhi felt that his Enterprise in stealing from institutions of Deposit had gotten a little Rote as of late.) Altho’ a similar Metaphysick was enunciated by the Antagonist of the Lady Kathryn’s previous film, Blue-Steel, the serenity and Humour of Mʳ Swayze’s performance, as well as a more thorough Integration of that Metaphysick into the varied Elements of Point-Break, cause the Latter film to be a vast Improvement on the Former; and it is that Integration to which we now turn our attention.
4.1) Regarding the Rather Conspicuous Level of Attraction between the Principal Antagonists (Loosely Call’d)
The Lady Kathryn’s films have always evinced a certain Instability with regard to the Roles and Presentation of Gender; properly said, this is not hyperbole, as the inaugural Shot of her first movie is a Reveal of Mʳ Willem Dafoe, whose Presence consists of a fair measure of a Slinkiness unmistakably Feminine, yet out-fitted with the Emblems of Masculinity: shiny, shiny Boots of leather; a Jacket of similar Material; and a rather prominent Crotch-Package. This Exploration continues in Blue-Steel, where the A-gendered presentation of its defining Element (tho’ not its Protagonist) was the subject of yʳ Chronicl’r’s previous Essay in this Series; and like so many other elements of the Film at Hand, the Lady draws it to its maximum Intensity here.
The Infrastructure of this film, that is, the Driver of the Plot and its emotional Charge is not the Procedural element; nor, even, is it the lush Appreciation of the Land- and Water-Scapes of its Setting. As the aforementioned Police Constable Butterman wisely notes, Point-Break is, in its sinews and Marrow, a Romantick Tragedy ‘twixt Mʳ Utah and Mʳ Bodhi, containing all the Tropes thereof: the first Encounter, designat’d Meet-Cute, the Demonstration of Loyalty, the Act of Betrayal, a Reunion Most Bitter-Sweet, and finally the Recognition and lethal Consummation of the shared Love. That this Consummation can only be realized in Death, whereas it would be, in the parlance of its Locale and even its Time, “No Big Deal” for Mʳ Utah and Mʳ Bodhi to settle down for a nice Fuck, and perhaps open up a Surf-Store for the enjoyment of the Locals and the pair’s monetary Gain, only increases the Intensity and Ridicule of this film; that which is, to reiterate, the Reason-for-Being of the Film, considered Whole.
Necessary to its status as a Romance is Point-Break’s unrelenting Sensuality, tho’ mentioned previously as not the Core of the Film’s emotional Appeal, nevertheless it is crucial Support. The Lady Kathryn, through her Camera, seems never less than entranced continually by what is on the Lens’ other Side. It is a trope of many a Director to shoot a Night-time scene of Romance in a blue Filter; but nowhere else have I seen the Offices of a federal Agency shot with the same Filter. (To provide the Audience–certainly yʳ Chronicl’r, even after many Viewings–with continual Surprise is apparently the narrative Stratagem of the Lady Kathryn. One must acknowledge, like so much else under the current Discussion, its equal parts Audacity and Success.) Counted as a Percentage of screen time, Point-Break may include, in point of Actuality, even more use of Slow-Motion than its Rival, Bad Boys the Second; I leave it to a far, far braver viewer than myself to self-subject to both Films, Stop-Watch and Adding-Machine to hand, to verify or disverify this claim. The Slow-Motion is largely used for the scenes encompassing the Act of Surfing, and it renders these acts with such Beauty and Force that it goes past the Trope of images of the South-land, and becomes, if not truly Beautiful, than certainly Compelling. The Lady Kathryn’s methods, are, once again, in an opposition Diametrick to those of Mʳ Bay: where he bullies, she seduces.
(Yʳ Chronicl’r offers his Apologies for the following Statement, for he has neither Evidence nor Argument to offer in its Support, only base Instinct: the Lady Kathryn’s Gaze in this film may be describ’d as Desiring yet not Lustful, as though the Men whose Bodies are display’d so generously are those of Posters on the wall of the Bed-chamber of her Teen-Age years; yet later in her Career, in, exemplia gratia, K-19, or the Widow-Maker or The Hurt-Locker, her Gaze assumes a maternal Aspect, as if the Men were now her Children, and she wished to offer them Protection.)
The Seduction, then, of Mʳ Utah by Mʳ Bodhi, takes place within a World already maximally Seductive: the Universe of Point-Break is Mʳ Bodhi’s from opening Credits to final Shot (even the names of the Contributors to the Film move through those Credits in a motion most Wave-like). Mʳ Utah becomes seduced Himself by this world, in true long before Mʳ Bodhi’s formal Entrance. It is of Note that his Guide to this world, and first Mentor, is not Mʳ Bodhi but rather the young Surf-Maiden Tyler, as portrayed by the Lady Lori Petty, who, it must be said, achieves an Erotick Charge that is both unique in the oeuvre of the Lady Kathryn, and yet the finest Exemplar of same: like the Deity who creates a Stone so heavy that even He himself cannot support it, even the Lady Kathryn could not surpass Herself in the creation of such a Character.
The Appearance, Countenance, and Manner of the Lady Tyler may be subsumed under the label of Androgyne. She possesses the firm Musculature of a surfing Denizen of the South-land, to be sure; her voice has the Depth and Lack of Smoothness rather like those of the Heroines of that Veteran, Mʳ Howard Hawks; she presents herself with an Authority, from her Entry into the story, that is unshakable; and her eyes are of a shade of Blue that is not just typically styl’d but actually earns the epithet of “Piercing.” Altho’, in the Parlance of our Times, one could categorize (if this Verb is not self-Contradictory) her as Bi-Sexual; her sexual Appeal is in fact, to use a term from a Discourse more Pharmaceutickal, Broad-Spectrum.
An Interlude. Yʳ Chronicl’r Reflects Upon His Sexual Identity Thro’ a Paradox
Can one be Gay for Mʳ Keanu Reeves and the Lady Lori Petty at the same time?
Resumption of the Argument Proper
Although nominally the Love-Interest of Mʳ Utah (and, it must also be noted, these Characters do, in true, Bone), the Lady Tyler functions more as the Romantick Rival for his Affections in terms of emotional Impact in the Proceedings. Upon Mʳ Bodhi’s arrival, she notes that she has a History with him, and her Expression and modulation of Voice suggests that said History was less than a Happy experience. The Ladies Kathryn and Lori engage in a Shading most subtil here: it is not the words of Tyler but the Manner that should stand as a Warning to Mʳ Utah. The Lady Tyler possesses Knowledge of the Danger of Mʳ Bodhi, something Mʳ Utah and even Mʳ Bodhi himself do not. In Structure, there is a distinct resemblance to the 1999 Film of Mʳ David Fincher, Fight-Club, which also took as its emotional Key-Stone a relationship between two (yʳ Chronicl’r, admittedly, uses Two here in a Sense somewhat loose, one that would most certainly not be approved of in the discourses of Plato, but as he is long Dead and I not Yet, tough Cookies to him) Men and one Woman, a Relationship where the woman was the only Character possessed of any measure of Sanity, a relationship where one Man must reject his Metaphysickal Other to achieve Stability with the sane Woman. (One suspects Mʳ Chuck Palahniuk of lifting, be in through Intention or otherwise, the name of Tyler from a viewing of this film.)
Also worthy of note, in reference to the Character of Tyler, is a Scene in the latter half of the Movie, wherein, pursuant to the discovery of her Betrayal by Mʳ Bodhi (an Lie of his, made possible by Federally empowered Stalking, that is one of the most disturbing Aspects under consideration here), she shoots a Pillow next to him in the Manner (tho’ not the Number) of that noted Iconickal Figure of Masculinity, Mʳ Lee Marvin, in the undeniably Classick film possessed of a nearly identical Title, Point-Blank. She then confronts him Verbally (although the Weapon at hand does empower her with a certain amount of Persuasiveness in her Discourse), and we must note, she is now garb’d like no other moment in the film Entire:
The Homo-Erotick Implication of the appearance of a Character, unmistakably gender’d Female, in a garb decidedly Masculine, in a Movie wherein the nominally central Antagonism is between Men, has to our good fortune been discoursed upon by that Worthy, Mʳ Quentin Tarantino, in a Monologue wherein one suspects the presence of certain Stimulants of a variety not entirely Legal at work upon his System. This monologue, according to Lore among the Community of Film-Makers styl’d Independent, was the product of long conversations between him and his fellow Store-Clerk, Mʳ Roger Avary, in the Time contemporary to the filming of Point-Break. It has been preserved in another work by the aforementioned Community, the Romantic-Comedy Sleep w/Me, and excerpted here for the Reader’s Edification. Altho’ the Subject of the Monologue is the previous Decade’s film Top-Gun, the Analysis applies equally well to the Film under our Consideration; and altho’ the Monologue Entire should be perused for these Insights, the most relevant comments begin at the Time-Code 1:27:
Yet one must not seek the Substance of the Romance under description in Allusion; one must look to the undeniable Chemistry between Mʳ Reeves and Mʳ Swayze, as well as the consequent Actions of the story heretold. The gaze of Mʳ Utah upon Mʳ Bodhi is of a nature most Fawning, oft characterized by the term Puppy-Dog; this being yet another example of a List nearly Innumerable of the ways in which the Lady Kathryn employs not Mʳ Reeves’ Talents but his Lack of same. In reciprocal Nature, the gaze of Mʳ Bodhi in reverse is always Gregarious–perhaps akin to that of a Rock-Star upon a Groupie of partickular Comeliness–yet in Paradox, grows ever more so as Mʳ Utah’s betrayal is Brought to Light, expressing a Confidence that Mʳ Utah will in fact return to his Affections.
Of necessity for the Quality of the film, considered in Wholeness, this must be borne out by the Plot. That it does is why Point-Break may be styled Great, an accomplishment along the unified works of Mʳ Scorsese or Mʳ Kurosawa, two more directors with no small amount of Kineticism and Madness in their oeuvres respective. I speak, of course, of the Culmination (as we shall see, the term Climax will in fact be equally apropos here) of the Romance between Mʳ Utah and Mʳ Bodhi, as so notably described by the aforementioned Mʳ Wright in this Disquisition’s introductory paragraph: the Firing of the Gun at the Firmament and the subsequent Cry of Aaaaaaaaa. Even before this Moment, the Lady Kathryn’s composition of an action Sequence is at a skill and Intensity greater than any in her Career before, and with few Rivals after: the use of the Interstices between the various housing Structures of the South-land; the ability to shift between shots Interior and Exterior; the image most Astonishing of a canine Obstacle thrown at Mʳ Utah (and, through the use of a Perspective denoted First-Person, at we, the respective viewers); the Presentation of the Action and, equally importantly, the relative Locations of Mʳ Utah and Mʳ Bodhi at all moments Coherent; and the necessary Return of what might be termed the Football Injury of Mʳ Chekov, promised in the first Meeting of Mʳ Bodhi and Mʳ Utah, and now resurgent here. (One must note that the Lady Kathryn’s Investment in the surface Sensuality of the movie entire pays great Dividends here, as, again, we respective viewers can, as near as possible, experience the Agony of Mʳ Utah in a way that would be described as Visceral, were not the Injury in question to the Knee-Joint.)
Let us return to the words of Mʳ Wright, thro’ his Director-Surrogate, Constable Butterman: confronted with the realization that the Object of his pursuit, concealed behind the rubberized, commercially available Visage of Pʳˢ Ronald Reagan, is none other than his true Love-Interest, Mʳ Bodhi (the Lady Kathryn favors him with a maximum Close-Up at this moment, undeniably revealing the sensitive Gaze of Mʳ Swayze), and suffering from the intense Agony described heretofore, Mʳ Utah chooses not to fire upon his target and instead Discharges the contents of his gun entire upward, followed by his Cry. The image is undeniably Ejaculatory, as if Mʳ Utah failed to achieve Consummation in his Relations with Mʳ Bodhi, and opted instead for a manual Release.
In keeping with the Terms of Romantick-Tragedy, this must be considered the act of Betrayal (as well as a Cock-Blocking most Substantial), a Wound inflicted ‘pon the Relationship that may only be rectified at a Price most Dear. Mʳ Bodhi’s response to this Act, taking the Lady Tyler as hostage thro’ a Surrogate quite fiendish, and using the resulting Lev’rage over Mʳ Bodhi to ensare him in his Activities most Criminal, shall be the Driver of Point-Break’s concluding Hour, a Cascade of Ownage at a pitch of Desperation, resulting in the passing of much of the supporting Cast of Characters from this mortal Coil. In keeping with the Laws of Tragedy formulated in times Ancient by Aristotle and often glossed upon by our Contemporary, Mʳ David Mamet (afore his Process of Thought came to be accurately described as Bat-Shit), the Act of Betrayal by Mʳ Utah unleashes Chaos upon the world; the Breach can only be annealed by the death of one of the protagonists, a death that Mʳ Bodhi pursues, and Mʳ Utah grants, in our film’s final Scene. To reiterate, the Status of Point-Break is justly earned, not because this thematic Element was realized in Style and Expression, but because it finds itself imbedded in the primary Element of Drama: Story.
4.2) The Æsthetick of a Partickular Decade Considered as the Corner-Stone, Foundational to a Film and an Oeuvre
Surely my Readers will by now recognize that so many Elements of the film Address’d here–including, yet not Limited to, the leading Roles of Mʳ Swayze and Mʳ Reeves; the Homo-Erotickism ‘twixt them; the Colors both Bright and Vivid; the continual Employment of Slow-Motion; the Sound-track substantially composed of Musick that might be termed, somewhat charitably, Pre-Grunge; Pʳˢ Ronald Reagan, considered as a Signifier somewhat Ironic, borne by Mʳ Bodhi; the prominence of the officers of Federal Agencies, presented in the Manner of Getters of Results, in spite of the Stupidity of their Chieftains–may be assigned a Temporally Specific designation, one that yʳ Chronicl’r has employed for the title of this Critickal Series entire: the Decade styl’d the Eighties. Although Point-Break, in merely Pedantic terms, misses the Designation by two scant years, nevertheless it must be considered the Final and Greatest work in the style of that Decade, much as the (previously considered) film of Mʳ Sidney Lumet, Prince of the Citie, misses its proper Decade by the same Margin as our current Object of discussion, and yet stands in the same Relation: the Conclusion, and the Exemplar.
The alliterative Slogans of the Decade in question–Greed Is Good, Bigger Is Best–have pass’d into History, yet they serve as a Guide for the Lady Kathryn’s Æsthetick. For, in true, both her Success and her definition as an Auteur of the highest Calibre depends not just on her Exploitation of the tropes of said Decade, but, most crucially, a Heightening of these Tropes to a maximum point of Perception rather than Execution. The Characteristic most defining of this partickular Decade may well be that of Excess, under the Gaze, most Benevolent yet most Vacant of that Figure-Head, Pʳˢ Reagan, homaged in the aforementioned false Visage of Mʳ Bodhi, and tho’, surely, the Lady Kathryn does demonstrate here that Characteristic, nevertheless she also executes a Temperance of it that does not inhibit the Excess, but rather heightens it.
Tho’ apparently most Paradoxickal, we may comprehend such an Assertion with reference to that most learned Composer, in the genre styl’d Modern, Edgard Varèse, and the invaluable Advice he conferred on eager Listeners in the Arts of Composition: one must always give Consideration to the Interval for one’s Musick to go out into the Audience. Tho’ it is not likely that the Lady Kathryn was directly given this Advice, as evidenced by the sizable difference in their Birth-Dates, she seems to have well comprehended its Essence, in that she always evinces Care for the Audience’s Perception; she pursues Excess, until, in the formulation of the poet Mʳ William Blake, she arrives at his Palace of Wisdom, but no farther. Rather than create her Spectackles to the maximum afforded by technologickal Possibility, she rather crafts them with Attention to how the Viewer shall experience and comprehend them; in doing so, she maximizes said Viewer’s Engagement, rather than the mere Decibel-Level or Editing-Rate of her Entertainments; a goal, if less Quantifiable, certainly of greater artistic Worth. One can describe the Æsthetick of Point-Break, and her career Entire, with reference to two defining Works of the Decade still under Discussion: an application of the Methods of Mʳ Tony Scott in Top-Gun with the Discipline of Mʳ Walter Hill in Extreme Prejudice; the result is a work of higher cinematick Quality than the former, and of greater historickal Endurance than the latter.
Although it may in fact appear to an Employment of a term most Oxy-moronic, yʳ Chronicl’r must note here that the Lady Kathryn’s Pursuit of Excess here is not, in point of plain Observation if not actual Fact, Excessive, but rather a necessary Structural under-girding of Point-Break, considered Whole. Such a claim may be revealed thro’ the logical Method of reductio ab absurdium: consider, if only momentarily, the Effect of a Presentation of the story at Hand, in the manner styl’d Realistic; one struggles to imagine what Point-Break would resemble if its guiding Auteur was Mʳ David Simon rather than the Lady Kathryn. Such an Endeavour would, of its own Nature, engage in Self-Collapse. Thro’ another Paradox (one must recognize that in the Sphere of human Creation call’d Artistic, such Contradictions do, in true, Proliferate, and therefore must also do so in the Disquisition at hand), the Excess of Point-Break serves well to remove it from the Concerns of the every-day, and raise its Action and Emotion to its own rarefied Realm; unlike the Lady’s previous Entertainment, Blue-Steel, the Viewer is never troubl’d by questions of Realism, and the resultant Effect is that said viewer’s Emotions may be fully Engaged. The Lady Kathryn well knows that we noble viewers have most generously suspended our Dis-belief upon entering the darken’d Theaters for the display of her Movie; and, in turn and with equal Generosity, she takes great Pains not to disturb such a Suspension.
5) A Taxonomie of Maidens, Jesters, and Assholes: the Supporting Cast Considered as No Less Essential
From the perspective of yʳ Chronicl’r and many Others, the Accomplishment of Point-Break, achieved in primary by not merely its spirit of Excess but the Commitment by which the Lady Kathryn applies it, is that of a near-continual state of Joy and Wonder. Even afore the title Sequence concludes, events of Strangeness and Delight commence, and they shall not cease until the film’s final Images; even in moments that would be most Perfunctory in the work of Lesser directors, that which is usually denoted Weird Shit enters the frame, and provokes that Joy, referenced at the Onset of this Disquisition. Having discussed heretofore the practices of the Principal Cast and the Story relevant to this achievement, yʳ Chronicl’r now turns to those whose roles are denoted by our fair Academy as Supporting; although, to extend the architectural Metaphor implied by that Term, their role might more fairly and completely be denoted Load-Bearing rather than Ornamental.
As befits an Entertainment so concern’d with the male Gender, the number of Female Roles is at a Paucity, as the Lady Kathryn has little Interest in the waste of storytelling Energy here, certainly not toward Roles that would be consider’d Tokens. Altho’ I have dealt what one hopes my Reader will consider a Measure of attention most Adequacious to the Character of the Lady Tyler, yʳ Chronicl’r wishes to now consider, however briefly, the Maiden designated in the Credits as “Fierce Woman,” ably Embodied by the Lady Gloria Mann. Appearing in but a single Scene, she adds that continual element of Wonder that is the Life-Blood of Point-Break. In the unfortunate Raid upon the Surf Nazis that Mʳ Utah has, in his haste (and, quite possibly, desire to return the Humiliation he suffered at their hands, three scenes to the Previous) inveighed his Federal Colleagues to undertake, the Lady Kathryn presents her, naked yet largely in Concealment, attending to ritual of Cleaning in her Bath-chamber. This would, in a more typical Entertainment, be a mere Serving of pleasure for that which Dʳ Laura Mulvey has denoted the Male-Gaze; yet the Fierce Woman, tru’ to her Designation and at the earliest Opportunity, turns around and beats the Living Shit out of that same Male-Gaze, in the person of Mʳ Utah. (The latter seems in a condition of Bewilderment by this turn of Events, as tho’ Mʳ Reeves’ copy of the Shooting-Script failed to indicate such a Reversal.) The Choreography of said Living-Shit-Beating is of a Piece with this entire action Sequence (of which more presently), the Camera at a middle Distance so that the audience perceives the Spectackle as a Demonstration of the arts of Mars rather than Eros. (The use of Slow-Motion is notable here for its Absence.) It may be compared, in its own Key, as playing a Melody by that worthy, Mʳ Stanley Kubrick, in the climactic Scene of his magnum opus, Fullmetal Jacket.
It was of a Necessity in the Era, seemingly, for all Movies involving Pursuits engaged by Law-Officers, be they representatives of agencies Local, County, State, or Federal, that said Officers be assigned in Pairs, with one of said pair being the Primary (perhaps the more accurate Term-of-Art would be Lead) and the other being Junior in Interest if not age or Status; the unfortunate Red-Shirt of the Two. It was of the great Fortune for the Lady Kathryn, Mʳ Reeves, and we the Viewers, that the Portrayal of this Partner, of what would be little more than a Plot-Device in others’ Hands, fell into the possession of Mʳ Gary Busey, acting then at the absolute Pinnacle of his Powers, when his Madness was fully an instrument for his Employment, and not an unfortunate Pretext for his Incarceration. (Yʳ Chronicl’r admits to not having viewed Mʳ Busey’s portrayal of Mʳ James Ellroy’s iconickal Rogue, former Det. Leland “Buzz” Meeks, in the Adaptation of his Novella “Since I Don’t Have You,” two Years after the Film under Discussion here.)
Mʳ Busey’s character, a Spec. Agent of the surname Pappas and the given name Angelo, a name most enjoyably Improbable for a Gentleman of such clear Anglo heritage (of course, “most enjoyably Improbable” serves well as a description of Point-Break Entire), receives an Introduction of the utmost Silliness: after an amusing conference with Mʳ Utah (delivering insults in reference to Mʳ Utah’s age, inexperience, name, and Sport, without realizing his Interlocutor is in fact the selfsame Object of his Derision), he engages in the form of Dive approximating that known as the Cannon-Ball; this is a fitting Overture to the dazzling Recital that Mʳ Busey delivers, as he hurls himself into one Scene after another with great Zest and no regard for Grace: the necessary Antipode to Mʳ Swayze’s most serene Endeavors.
One must stress here, how in lesser directorial Hands, the Character of Spec. Agent Pappas would be a mere Plot-Element, whose Arc of Character could be predicted Entire simply from the positioning the opening Credits. In the typical Fare of the genre of Action-Movie, the Partner exists for the naught more than the twin Purposes of Motivation and Obstacle to the main Character, in that chronologickal Order; having fulfilled these Purposes, the Partner shall suffer Death at the hands of the nefarious Villain (or, in greater Probability, an Accomplice of same), a death most likely fulfilled in anteproximity to said Partner’s date of Retirement. In his thoroughly entertaining and, as yʳ Chronicl’r as argued Elsewhere, Necessary tome ‘pon the Industry of Film, entitl’d Monster, the Late Mʳ John Gregory Dunne relates that such characters received the following Designation from knowledgeable Screen-Writers: DBTA, acronymizing “Dead By Third Act.”
This is exactly the journey of Mʳ Busey’s Character, yet every moment upon its Traversal occasions Wonder rather than Boredom. He places Spec. Agent Pappas with a heady Brew that must be rated Bitter, yet equally Joyful; he has long passed the state of Anger with his Agency of employment, and arrived at a Cynicism most Energetic. He emotes his lines with utter Disregard for the listener, an Effect that becomes even more Distinctive in comparison with the slower and more careful Enunciations of Mʳ Reeves; his Movements suggest a Struggle against his own somewhat portly Figure, as tho’ he wishes more Energy than is in his Possession. In Appearance, of course, the wildness of his Eyes, Hair, and Garments all signify He Who No Longer Gives a Shit, and it must be said that if this Appearance was a challenge to the thespian Arts of Mʳ Busey, he more than succeeds here in a performance less Falstaffian than Fluellenian, with the Meat-ball Sandwich a version Contemporary of that fine Welshman’s Leek; or to use terms of a sad Contemporaneity, a performance that approximates, as no other could, the Presence of our fine Colleague Z. Motherfucker, Esq., apparently largely Departed from the Twitter-Sphere and now only erratically able to grace us with his rough Wisdom after having succumbed to the Charms of the fairer Sex. (Godspeed, say we all.)
Let us now consider John C. McGinley as Special Agent in Charge Ben Harp, embodying the Archetype of the mentally and morally Deficient Chieftain, unable (thro’ said Deficiencies) to appreciate those under his Command who Achieve Results, to the same extreme Degree as every other Element of the film. Mʳ McGinley has no little experience in portraying such Assholes, and his career Entire may be seen as Preparation for his essaying of Dr. Perry Cox on Scrubs, that Situation-Comedy which had the most unfortunate Distinction of launching the career of Mʳ Zach Braff, which, apart from a most enjoyable guest Appearance in the Comic-Epic Arrested-Development, has largely been a rampant Blight of Twee ‘pon our Culture. Dr. Cox was a surprisingly layered and Complex portrayal of the Asshole (one is tempted to use the regrettable pun Procto-Scopick as an adjective here, but yʳ Chronicl’r shall confine it to this Parenthetickal), which Mʳ Harp, most certainly and most thankfully, is not.
From his Entrance, he is naught but an Obstacle to the Actions of Mʳ Utah and Mʳ Pappas, deriding the Skills of the former and the Wisdom of the latter. In contrast to Mʳ Pappas, there is no Journey of Mʳ Harp’s character, save towards the Floor of a Banking-Establishment in his final, and most Humorous, Scene. Yet Mʳ McGinley’s Talent in portraying this Asshole is of such Magnitude that it achieves, to speak true, a form of Grace; his opening Conversation with Mʳ Reeves feels like a prepared Monologue, an introductory Video-Graph to a Corporation embodied in the Form of a person. (The Lady Kathryn films this scene, oft’ designat’d as a Walk-and-Talk, in an unbroken, near-dizzying shot that would be the Envy of both Mʳ Brian ͩ ͤPalma and Mʳ Aaron Sorkin.) His Rages are equally Entertaining, as though he travels through his Workday in a Rage-Perpetual, and simply desires an Excuse to express said Rage. Younger than Mʳ Pappas, Mʳ Harp seems to have already achieved that state among workers in an Organization known as Burn-Out; whereas Mʳ Busey’s character clearly wishes only to get through the Day, and perhaps enjoy a fine Repast of the aforementioned Sandwich, Mʳ McGinley at all times seems in pursuit of that mythical Promotion, most likely a Transfer to the fabled Headquarters of the Agency in the far-off Capital of the States-United.
It is a mark of the Unity of Point-Break that after this most recent Viewing, yʳ Chronicl’r believes that the aforementioned Raid upon the Surf-Nazis with its most unfortunate Ending directly resulted from an Action, or rather Inaction, on the part of Mʳ Harp; he deliberately withheld the Knowledge that the Target of the Raid was in fact a long-standing Operation by another Agency of the selfsame Federal Government. His Intent was to create a Deliberate and Dramatick Failure for Mʳ Utah and Mʳ Pappas; witness that during the Aftermath of the raid, when this Failure comes clear to All, Mʳ Harp is Becalmed, in truth more so than in the Story Entire, as though he were most pleased with the results of his Shenanigans.
6) Mʳ John Woo’s Face-Off Considr’d as a Demonstration of Failures Antithetical to the Successes of Point-Break
At the time of the Theatrickal release of Point-Break, the most talented Mʳ John Woo was established well in the cinematick Firmament of that Region, Hong-Kong, which was still at that time (in only the strictest Technickal sense, as its Lease had but six scant years afore its Termination) a Colony of that late Empire o’er which the Sun Failed to Set. Many of the Concerns of Mʳ Woo were, compar’d to those of the Lady Kathryn, in an Accord most Harmonious: a Palette of great Vividness, encompassing not merely the Color but the Activity bounded by Frame of the Screen; the Rend’ring of a Prowess most Masculine; a Taste, in the Stories of their respective Ouevres, for a Conflict most fundamental between Dualities of their main Characters, etch’d in an Opposition; and, lastly and perhaps most definingly, an exemplary Competence with that Quality, Dramatick and Cinematick, that we define as Ownage.
Sadly, Mʳ Woo’s cinematick Legacy, upon his shift to a setting more American and a language of that late Empire rather than that of his Birth, went into a Decline: I know of no Scholar of the arts of Cinema (or even a reputable Viewer of same) who would consider his latter Work to be at the Pinnacle of his Achievement; indeed, upon viewing the execrable Remittance of 2003, yʳ Chronicl’r confidently feels he has seen the Nadir of said Achievements, consider’d Entire. (If a film of demonstrably lower Quality does indeed exist in Mʳ Woo’s Oeuvre, I beg my readers to leave me in my state of an Ignorance most content. Mr. Woo may well be in agreement with this Assessment, as, subsequent to this movie, loosely call’d, he has apparently returned to his country of Origin to continue his cinematick Career.) Face-Off, gracing our Screens in that same Year, 1997, as Mʳ Woo’s homeland’s nominal Liberation, may well be nam’d as the most successful cinematick Endeavour of this American period; it is a work of a great Similarity of Function to that under our larger Consideration; and tho’ possessed of many Virtues most Undeniable, must, at the conclusion of the form of Analysis denoted Compare-and-Contrast between the two Works, suffer the description of Lesser.
Let us begin in a spirit of Charity, with Attention paid to those Virtues. The foundational Premise of Face-Off is of an Improbability so great that it may be rightly said to belong to the Realm of Scientifiction: the Antagonists, portrayed by the Thespians, well-Regarded in their partickular Crafts, Mʳ John Travolta and Mʳ Nicolas Cage, each suffer to undergo a Surgickal Procedure which renders each Gentleman into the Visage and Form of their Dramatic and indeed Metaphysickal Other. The highest Praise yʳ Chronicl’r can offer may be also said to be of the most surpassing Simplicity: for passages of long Duration in his Viewing, he would respond with the greatest Admiration for the Performance of Mʳ Travolta or Mʳ Cage, respectively, when in point of Truth, the Presence of the other Gentleman was displayed upon the screen of his local Theater. The performances of Both may be said to be of the highest degree of Madness; yet each styl’s said Madness to the respective Character at an equally high degree of Specificity; subsequently, each Actor then undertakes to display the other’s Specific Madness, and do so without Flaw.
For all the Passages where the Gentlemen Travolta and Cage hold the viewer’s Attention, Face-Off lays claim to be the Equal of Point-Break, indeed its worthy Successor. Mʳ Woo, as Readers of our fine Web-Site surely possess the Knowledge, engages in Action-Scenes with a Commitment that equals that of the Lady Kathryn, and the Reasoning for this may be also said to be equal: both Directors push the Emotions of their Characters into a realm that may be considered Hysterical, yet honestly so. When, thro’ the use of Mirrors, the Characters of Mʳ Travolta and Mʳ Cage draw their respective Fire-Arms and then undertake to aim them directly at each Other, they are separated by a mere few feet, and each stares directly into the Visage of his Enemy, which is, of course, also his Own. It has exactly the Power, the Absurdity, and the emotional Impact, of Mʳ Utah looking into the Mask’d Gaze of Mʳ Bodhi, prior to his firing of the Gun at the Firmament and the subsequent Cry of Aaaaaaaaa.
Would that Mʳ Woo had crafted the Remainder of his Entertainment with equal Attention! For now we must speak of the lamentable Difference betwixt Point-Break and Face-Off: whereas the Lady Kathryn well establishes and maintains the unique Tonalities of Madness and Momentum for the Totality of the former movie, Mʳ Woo’s command of the same Qualities is inter-mittent, in the most charitable Experience and Description. The achievement of Point-Break, and the justification for its inclusion in the Pantheon of Action-Cinema, is two-fold: first, a story that, in its simultaneous Antagonism and Romance betwixt its lead characters, may be fairly described as Archetypal, if not Mythic; and second, the raising of every other Element in its ambit to an Equal level of Interest, even of Crazy. Face-Off can be said to achieve the first Criterion; but fails, and it must be said, quite conspicuously, at the Second.
Consider, exemplia gratia, the events subsequent to the Decision, made by the character essayed by Mʳ Travolta, to undertake the aforementioned Surgickal Procedure which shall render his Appearance in totality as that of his opposite Number, Mʳ Cage’s character. Mʳ Woo then devotes what, in the perception of yʳ Chronicl’r, an interval of time and attention of an Extent most Damnable, to detailing this Procedure. Doing so does not merely tax the viewer’s finite Attention (the Reader may wish to refer to the earlier Discussion, in section 4.2 of this Disquisition, of the Lady Kathryn’s careful Consideration of this most precious Quantity) but by displaying the elements of said Procedure, it heightens the Improbability of each, and thus disturbs, even destroys, our Necessary suspension of Dis-belief. As Viewers, we are already in a state of Acceptance of the Premise of Face-Off, and yet, after this sequence, we may well not be. Again, let us consult the rough and foundational Wisdom of Aristotle: in the craft of Storytelling, the probable Impossible shall always be preferred to the improbable Possible, for whereas the former situation only requests of the Audience a single Violation of Plausibility, and only at the Onset of the Story, the latter requires that the Violation be Continual, and enduring. The sequence of Face-Off under consideration here takes the Premise of the film entire and moves it from the first Category to the second, and thus introduces a Fatal weakness to the Whole.
Expanding from this most unfortunate Sequence to the film Entire, this is its sad Deficiency: either through lack of Interest or Inability, Mʳ Woo fails to raise those aspects of Face-Off not directly concerned with the Struggle betwixt the characters of Mʳ Travolta and Mʳ Cage to an equal Level of Viewer-Engagement, or even past Boredom. Where, as discuss’d in the sections directly Previous to this one, the supporting Cast of Point-Break admirably sustains its Energy, the secondary Characters of Face-Off, tho’ portrayed by a Cast of an equal amount of Talent (including such worthies as the Ladies Joan Allen, CCH Pounder, and Gina Gershon, Mʳ Colm Feore, Mʳ John Carroll Lynch, to name but a few of those on the expansive Roster) never engage in any Interest beyond their barest functions in the Plot; Lady Joan Allen is partickularly ill-served, reduced to displaying the emotion of Sadness, and not much else. In the final Act of Point-Break, the Lady Kathryn takes great Care to strip all Conflicts from her story except that between Mʳ Utah and Mʳ Bodhi; at the similar moment in Face-Off (although, in the experience of yʳ Chronicl’r, it felt more like a God-damned hour), Mʳ Woo feels the need to indulge in a chase between Speed-Boats, as tho’ he suddenly believed he had been assigned a movie in the Franchise depicting that aforesaid Empire’s most well-known and therefore least-secret Agent, Mʳ James Bond. By the most welcome end of Face-Off, the Viewer is left only in a state of Exhaustion, whereas the Viewer of Point-Break feels an equal Exhilaration.
7.1) Consid’ring the General and Varied Means by Which the Lady Kathryn May Be Fairly Said to Own Our Collective Asses
Yʳ Chronicl’r must caution the unwary Reader ‘gainst a certain Interpretation of the film at hand that has gained an unnecessary Popularity in the intervening Decades since its Release ‘pon a grateful Film-Publick: Point-Break must not be considered among the class of Art-Works styl’d So Bad It Is Good. Without question, elements of the film, considered in Isolation, would be described as Lacking in reason, sense, or Intelleckt; yet as a whole, and for many reasons that yʳ Chronicl’r has taken Pains to elucidate (and a few that shall presently arrive in this Disquisition), the film is at no moment ever less than compelling. As Our Tasmanian Correspondent, who styl’s his Presence here after the late and besotted French Emperor, has noted, “[Point-Break has] a strong Formalism combined with Melodrama in the best possible Sense”; and it is that Formalism to which we now turn our Attention.
Having seen Several of the movies under the commonly agreed and aforementioned Heading of So Bad It Is Good (used in fact, so commonly, that the Authorities at the Services of Letter-Boxd or Net-Flix would be well advised to create a specific Category of Reviews or Rentals for films under said Heading), the element common to them is Boredom. One has Time to formulate a response as a pitying Critic rather than an engaged Viewer; one has Time, often accompanied by one’s Peers, to engage in that activity, celebrated in the oft-appreciated and recently-resurrected Tele-Visual Series Mystery Science Theater MMM, known as Riffing. Point-Break, in contrast to these films, and, yʳ Chronicl’r must say in sadness, in contrast to several Films in the oeuvre of the Lady Kathryn, gives the Viewer no such pause. The pacing of approximately the first Hour, tho’ of a Languor, nevertheless moves forward with a Steadiness, interrupted by brief bursts of Action and Deduction, culminating in the unfortunate Raid described previously. Not too many minutes post-Raid, Mʳ Utah realizes his elusive Quarry has, in true, been Mʳ Bodhi and his Cohort; and from that moment, the Lady Kathryn never shows the slightest Mercy to her Characters or her Audience, with one event (oft’ an act of ownage most Savage) following the next without pause. In terms of the sheer and unbridl’d Craft of the Action-Movie, this hour may well be the Pinnacle of her noble Career.
7.2) Two Routes-Scenic, Allowing Yʳ Chronicl’r to Engage in Description and Appreciation, Fine-Grained, of the Craft at Hand
It has been mentioned, in a previous Missive by yʳ Chronicl’r, that the Director of an Action-Movie must consider the Scenes of Action within as Stories, self-Contained, with characters, plots, beginnings, middles, and Ends; the craft of the Director must not be seduced by the lure of the Spectackle (where lesser Directors use most commonly Explosions of great magnitude, or Editing of great speed, to distract rather than engage the Viewer) but rather attend to the construction of these Scenes with the same Diligence granted to the movie, considered Whole. The Lady Kathryn’s work continues to develop on this point, to our the Viewers’ great Benefit and Excitement. Of note in Point-Break is how deftly she navigates among different Interests and Points of View. In the final Robbery of a Banking-Establishment, in which our nominal Protagonist Mʳ Utah has been unfortunately dragooned into Cooperation in order to save the Surf-Maiden Tyler, the Lady Kathryn must interweave the distinct Characters and Objectives of Mʳ Utah, Mʳ Bodhi, his Cohort (who were not informed of the former’s Plan to extend the Robbery and in fact breach the Establishment’s Vault, thus heightening the Danger to All; this most unprofessional decision by Mʳ Bodhi deftly indicates the Character’s Break with his previous status of near-beatific Calm), and the most unlucky Off-Duty Patrolman on the Floor who seeks to intercede with the ongoing Robbery, and the Guardian of the Establishment, who, in an act paralleling the experience of Mʳ Utah, he also near-coerces into his Assistance. This is an emotional, logistical, and even spatial problem of great Complexity to Navigate, comparable to negotiating the motivations of the Characters in three-Act Drama, and an even greater Complexity to do it in under six minutes, and the Lady Kathryn achieves the Solution to the problem with great visual Dexterity, culminating in a final blow to the Skull of Mʳ Utah that gives her a fine reason to end the scene with a visual Exclamation.
Let us now return, for a further Demonstration (and Disquisition upon same) of the Story-Telling Craft which the Lady Kathryn employs on the spatial and Temporal scale of the Scene, to the afore-mentioned Raid Upon the Surf-Nazis. In the Prologue of said Scene, she employs the Technique of Cross-Cutting to both heighten the Tension of the upcoming Events, and also to establish the relations Spatial of the various Players; a technique that owes much to that acknowledged Grandmaster of Ownage, Mʳ Sam Peckinpah. (The Inheritance from Mʳ Peckinpah to Mʳ Hill to the Lady Kathryn bids well to be one of the strongest, and most Familial, in Cinema; as each seems to learn from his or her Forebear, and then personalize that Knowledge, it might well be termed a cinematic Dynasty; exemplia gratia, The Hurt-Locker is wholly and unmistakably a work of the Lady Kathryn; yet it would not be possible for the film to assume its most worthy and distinct Form, had Mʳ Peckinpah and Mʳ Hill not graced the Art with their noble and industrious Presences.) A brief employment of Slow-Motion, as a nefarious Rogue tosses a piece of automatic Weaponry to another, serves as a slight but intensely effective heightening of the Tension, so necessary to this Prologue; also of equal Brevity and Effectiveness is the abrupt Camera-Tilt as Mʳ Utah quickly ducks below the line of the Window-Frame, in a successful attempt to preserve his Concealment from the aforesaid Rogues. (Mʳ Kubrick will employ a similar move, with similar emotional Effect, with reference to his Camera and the body of the Lady Nicole Kidman in his concluding Opus of the most contradictory Title, Eyes Wide-Shut.) Both Moments do not call Attention to themselves; as a Viewer, one reacts as Mʳ Utah does rather than engage in Critickal Appreciation. (Yʳ Chronicl’r only observed these from a more detach’d Viewpoint on perhaps his seventh Viewing of same.)
Upon the Commencement of the Action of the Scene, heralded by the uninvited Entrance of Mʳ Pappas into the Property (likely a Rental-Unit, it may still be considered a Domicile under the Laws of Zoning of the South-land) of the Surf-Nazis, the Technique of Cross-Cutting expands: the Lady Kathryn no longer cuts between Images of the same Story, but between different Stories. Her Film-Sense is at its most Impeccable in these moments: were she to engage in a Partickular story for too long, the Viewer loses that Commodity most precious in film-viewing, namely Attention, for one’s mind becomes troubled by the Thought, “Hey, what’s going on in that other room?”; conversely, removing our attention from a story too abruptly results in the Incoherence that is oft’ referred to as Bay-hem, in Honor (one could rightfully argue, in Dishonor) of the Lady Kathryn’s opposite directorial Number, referenced at the Onset of this Disquisition. The choices of when to cut betwixt stories and when to finish them (note in partickular the Moment, or Fraction thereof, when Mʳ Pappas fires upon a Surf-Nazi holding a Maiden as hostage; it happens Off-Beat, and is of a Violence both Shocking and Quick) are, here, of an artistic Level that can be described as Sublime; as Viewers, we are engulfed in a Chaos, yet we always know our Place in it; the Principle of Clarity earlier elucidated by yʳ Chronicl’r given its greatest Challenge, and through it, arriving at one of its greatest Successes.
To continue upon this Theme, consider another of the scenes of Action most Exemplary, or, to speak more correctly, a single Beat of this scene, a Technique that the Lady Kathryn oft’ employs, that might be denoted the Action-Twist: an Element, introduced into the rising Action of said Scene, abruptly brought to the Fore of our Interest through the most subtil use of the Arts of Editing or Cinema-Photography. Here, upon an abrupt Collision with a door opened by a Colleague of Mʳ Utah’s, the Hand-Gun of one of the Surf-Nazis (portrayed by Mʳ Anthony Kiedis, known to most as the Chanteur and Leader of the well-known Musickal Performers styl’d the Red-Hot Chili-Peppers, another of the Legacies of the Eighties of this Entertainment) is most Unfortunately directed downward; its immediate and subsequent Discharge rendering a substantial Percentage of said Surf-Nazi’s foot into a bloody Absence; a moment that, no matter the opinion of the Viewer upon the Musick of the aforesaid Performers, is Invariably greeted by said Viewer with a Joy uncontain’d. The action, like all Twists that are delivered on a larger Scale, commonly those of the master Plot, is both Unexpected, yet somehow Necessary; as Viewers, we are not made to feel Deceived, rather its Opposite: we have been rewarded of an extra Morsel of that delicacy most Dramatic and Cinematic, Ownage. In its combined Elements of Surprise, Ridicule, and an Excitement most undeniable, this one Beat–encompassing in Duration no more than mere seconds–might well be seen as a Representation of Point-Break, and the Lady Kathryn’s directorial Skill, Entire.
7.3) The Thesis, Concluded
The Scene just describ’d engages in a trajectory of Narrowing-Down, from several stories in Simultaneity to single conflict, between the Face, unmark’d and Comely, of Mʳ Utah and a Power-Mower which would inflict most unfortunate Damage to said Face. Considered wholly, the film Point-Break engages in a similar Trajectory in the tradition of classick Drama, reducing and shedding its many Plots to a single Conflict, that between Mʳ Utah and Mʳ Bodhi. At the formal Climax of the film, some Thousands of feet above the mortal Plane, Mʳ Bodhi divests himself of both an injured Partner (Mʳ James le Gros, who suffered a somewhat less unfortunate Fate in the Lady Kathryn’s Near Dark, two films Antecedent to that under consideration here) and his Hand-Gun, and quickly departs through the Egress of the Sky-Conveyance that he, Mʳ Utah, and Mʳ le Gros (previously) had all been Transported upon. In one of the many moments of Shock in his performance, Mʳ Reeves gives himself over to a Rage quite sudden and Alarming; then, in one of the greatest of all Moments in Cinema that may be, in the Taxonomie of Scenes, denoted a Class yclept What-the-Actual-Fuck, possesses himself of the Hand-Gun, previously mention’d, and removes himself through the also previously mention’d Egress, without the benefit of Parachute or any other Devices for his pursuit of Mʳ Bodhi, and the attendant Fall.
Both Image and Act, in these moments, are possessed of a Purity most Startling. No Dogs shall be rendered Airborne, no Fierce Maiden shall interfere, no Gas-Station shall demonstrate its Combustibility; we see only two Men in their journey Downward thro’ the Atmosphere, delivered only in Wide-Shots and Close-Ups. More would be neither, in anno Domini 1991, technologickally Possible, nor aesthetically Necessary. The Lady Kathryn invests the Imagery here with a Serenity that is most unexpected and equally Compelling; Mʳ Utah has achieved the state that Mʳ Bodhi has described thro’ the film: that of the Rush of Experience. As have we, the Viewers: the stubborn Ore of mundane Logic has by now been dissolv’d in the purifying Reagent of the Lady Kathryn’s Commitment, a Commitment equaled by her Characters, Cast, and Crew; by now, Mʳ Utah’s Act and the Lady Kathryn’s Portrayal of same are, in simplicity, the next and penultimate Station in the Journey of Madness taken here by All.
It should not leave us in a state of Surprise that the Lady Kathryn can yet provide one more Demonstration of her Characters’ mutual Delirium. To wit, when Mʳ Utah engages in a High-Speed Tackle, still some thousands of feet in the Firmament, Mʳ Bodhi turns the Game into one of total Destruction, Mutually Assured (and we would do well to remember that the death of Mʳ Bodhi would also, not many minutes hence, entail also the death of the Lady Tyler), as he refuses to engage the Lanyard that would result in Deployment of the parachute and thus allow Mʳ Bodhi and Mʳ Utah a reasonably Safe, tho’ in all likelihood not very Comfortable, Impact on the approaching Ground. Even the classic Image of two Men, sitting in a room overwhelm’d with Fumes of Gasoline, each threatening the Enkindlement of a single Match-head, does not do Justice to the Dilemma Mʳ Utah currently suffers: pulling the Lanyard of Deployment will require him to relinquish his purchase ‘pon the Hand-Gun, which will thus land considerably Elsewhere, and deprive him of any Lev’rage over Mʳ Bodhi post-Impact on the ground, approaching ever closer, and of a Solidity most Undeniable. After an image most simple and Intense of said Surface approaching (the Intensity derives from the fact that the Features of the Surface are developing an alarming Clarity), Mʳ Utah does, in true, Release the Gun: in terms of the Romantic-Tragedy between Mʳ Utah and Mʳ Bodhi, this Act should be considered Tantamount to Mʳ Utah’s Resignation from the Love between them; as he cannot be the dominant Partner in this Relationship, he must in fact deny it to himself altogether. The Impact of both Characters into the landscape most Unforgiving brings about the Return of Mʳ Utah’s Football-Injury, and he is unable to engage in any further Pursuit of Mʳ Bodhi, only to accept the Ministrations of the newly freed Surf-Maiden, the Lady Tyler. In its Breathlessness and sense of Completion, one must conclude that this moment earns the denotation of Climax, in all Senses of the term.
The film’s final Scene, discussed under Section 4.1 of the Disquisition at hand, enkindles a feeling closer to an Epilogue rather than a Climax true. In that moment, no further Possibilities for either character can be said to Exist. Mʳ Bodhi must die, thro’ a confrontation with Nature and not the officials of Government, and Mʳ Utah must allow this Sacrifice to transpire. One must credit the Lady Kathryn with an Understanding, rarely found by her more clumsy Contemporaries, of the proper Structure of an audience’s Attention; she has Recognized that the most powerful Scene has already transpired, and she, quite gently, allows the Viewer a feeling of Peace, well Earned, for the ending.
Point-Break is a film of which its Quality, in both Senses of the Term, may be describ’d as Absurd; tho’ crafted with as much Precision and Attention as The Jackal’s Day, it does not, as the earlier and most excellent film does, concern itself with matters of Reason but rather with their Opposite; and in doing so, the Lady Kathryn has crafted a Monument to that particular variety of Crazy, and those who live by it. Viewers who consider (or, perhaps, delude) themselves as sorts who live by Reason may bring their considerable Powers of Analysis to bear upon this, as one may do with Waves and those who Ride them; these Viewers may complain, and style this Film, and that Experience, as Lesser. Yet Viewers may also Abandon themselves to the Experience and Enjoy; those who do will find a Reward of one of the most joyful and intense Action-Movies in all of Cinema.
8) Afterword. An Apologia
Yʳ Chronicl’r offers both his Thanks and his Condolences for the gentle Readers who have suffered this Indulgence to its Conclusion. As regards the motivation for the Quixotic Styl’ngs here. . .well, although he has a great capacity and Fondness for the Bullshit denoted Theoretical, and could, of ease, engage in such Discourse now in a feeble attempt at Justification, yʳ Chronicl’r will instead simply relate the bare Facts of this Disquisition’s Conception, and the supervening Motivation thereof: said Principles were arrived at during an evening’s Repast of the spirits from the Region of Ken-tuck-ee and the name of the long-late Rulers of the French nation; the Archaic and Idiosyncratic language and Typography was, at the Origin, confin’d to the Section-Headings, but yʳ Chronicl’r realized, within a Time-Span of minutes, that if one must discuss Point-Break in a Fashion most Bat-Shit, one must, without Hesitation or Remorse (or Mercy to those readers most Unfortunate, who came to this Web-Page expecting a modicum of Sense) engage in Pursuit of this Madness to its ultimate Finish, as the heroes of the Film did, equally bereft of those qualities of Hesitation or Remorse. (If, as Mʳ Bodhi proclaims, it is no waste to leave one’s life in the pursuit of what one loves, then neither can it be a waste to engage in writing about same, no matter the Degree of length, or Silliness therein.) It would seem, somehow, an act of Disrespect to approach Point-Break in a spirit of Reason, or without a Commitment most Entire.
Previously: Blue Steel (1991)
Next: Strange Days (1995)