I love the films of Patrick Swayze.
I also love the films of Keanu Reeves, so when Point Break was released, I started popping the corn immediately and looking around for extra sauce for my choc bomb.
Patrick was, for a while, the innocuous action actor. Take Road House, for example. For starters, this film was directed by a guy called Rowdy Herrington. Rowdy began his filmic career as grip on the set of Repo Man. I mean, from there, where can you go?
The plot one-liner is that a bouncer comes into town to straighten out a ‘dirty’ bar.
It’s a great start plot-wise. What kind of a bar is this place? It’s got dancers swirling on poles. It’s got a cool name, the Double Deuce, which translates—I think—as some measurement of liquor. It’s always dark inside, so it can harbour con-men, local “whores-with-good-hearts” and lots of dark-coloured booze served in shot glasses.
The enduring theme, though, is that his character, Dalton, has a sketchy past.
It’s possible he’s got a criminal record or is on the run for something, but at his essence, his core, he’s one of the ‘good guys’. He’s anti-establishment but in a good way. He’s described as having a ‘quiet demeanor’, in contrast to the local rough-necks. He’s fiercely tough. After sustaining a stab wound, he needs treatment like a mortal might, but during the conversation with the doctor he announces “pain don’t hurt” , in one of the most life-changing quotes since anything from Falcon Crest.
Although Swayze was a trained dancer (his mother was a choreographer), he stuck to the arse-kicking stereotype; one of his big break-out roles was in Red Dawn. In this, he acted alongside other luminaries such as Charlie Sheen and C. Thomas Howell.
C. Thomas Howell. That’s the kind of name that shows you are uncomfortable as an actor and human. Patrick Swayze didn’t muck about with weird acting names. His middle name was Wayne.
Again, in Red Dawn, Swayze played the gentle-but-strong freedom-fighter. Red Dawn was made in Reagan’s ’80s. This was not a coded film—the premise was that America had been invaded by the Soviets, backed by Cuba and Nicaragua. The Reds had some work to do, though, since Patrick and his school-age friends (he was 32 in real life) banded together as ‘The Wolverines’ to kick some communist ass back whence they came.
Swayze was unique as an action actor. He was no Wesley Snipes. He paid his taxes.
He was no Tom Cruise—he was an anomaly, certainly, but not in the scourge-on-society sense like Tom. He was not blustery and grotesque like Schwarzenegger at that time. He remained in the same soul-mate relationship for many years, rode horses in his spare time and at one time was the face of dance, in Dirty Dancing. Was he the guy women wanted and men secretly wanted to be?
In Point Break, I believe Patrick played Patrick Swayze. With a name like Bodhi and a choker neckpiece which rejected the fundamentals of capitalism, Bohdi’s commune mentality was refreshing. He was generous, rational, lived life to the full and had a live-and-let-live (or die, but let’s not go there) ethos, so rare in the alpha-male main character.
In contrast, I’m sad to say that Keanu Reeves stumbled his way through this movie providing it with nothing more than a warm human to whom Swayze could say his cool lines.
Where else have we seen this iteration of the tough-guy in cinema? Has there ever been another Patrick Swayze?
At the end of Point Break, Keanu Reeves, as FBI, has a chance to arrest Bohdi for the crime of sticking the finger to the man, big time.
Reeves ends up chasing him to Bell’s Beach, South Australia where he handcuffs Bodhi, but Bodhi manages to talk Reeves out of this and to let him catch “one last ride”. Deep down, Reeves too—both actor and his lame-arse character—wanted to be Bodhi: fearless and unshackled. He would get there, but not until much later.
In the final scene, Bodhi walks to the water with his board and paddles out. The incoming wave is part of a 50-year storm that you and I who work in offices and pay taxes know nothing about because we are trapped in a personal hell capitalist stranglehold and only use beaches to walk our dogs.
He stands, he rides one massive wave and is gone, presumably consumed by the ocean, rather than the system, as represented by Reeves.
Reeves walks away, as real Australian actors run at him screeching “We’ll get heeem when he comes back eeeen”. Last seen on episodes of Neighbours, these actor-extras have hit acting paydirt.
Reeves is calm, transformed by the scene of self-sacrifice.
I love Patrick Swayze movies. I also like film auteurship by people not called Rowdy Herrington, but Patrick—you were and still are—The Man.