I’ve loved films for a long time. All my life really. I try and see as many, and as varied movies as I possibly can. But you can only watch so much in a year, and there are still a few notable films that have passed me by. I’ve been trying my utmost to correct these oversights, so here are a few of my most recent first-time watches, along with my take on them.
POINT BREAK (1991)
Kathryn Bigelow doesn’t just make technically brilliant action movies, but beautiful action movies driven by character and human emotion. That was obvious to most in THE HURT LOCKER, but it’s also easy to see in POINT BREAK. You really don’t expect a film wish such a trashy premise as FBI agent going undercover as a surfer to catch a gang of bank robbers would be this nuanced. Keanu Reeves is allowed to go full-on “whoa dude” as newbie agent Johnny Utah tries to blend in, and he has great chemistry with Patrick Swayze’s Bodhi and Lori Petty’s Tyler – both, in their way, fascinating characters. The surfing scenes are great, the heist scenes are great, it features one of the all-time greatest foot chases on film (both in terms of flawless execution and the compelling stage in the characters’ development that drives it). W. Peter Iliff’s screenplay is zippy and funny, too, and allows for several unexpected, soulful punches in and amongst the action.
I know it’s one of the most ridiculous movies ever made, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t fun. Take two actors who at this stage of their careers had become parodies of themselves, and come up with a plot contrivance that allows them to impersonate each other. John Woo’s action direction is typically flamboyant and dove-filled, and both John Travolta and Nicolas Cage seem to enjoy having a filmmaker’s blessing to act full-on crazy. Travolta’s Cage impression is better than Cage’s Travolta, but that’s mostly because anyone trying to do Nicolas Cage has such an abundance of personality and performance peculiarities to work with (whereas Travolta tends to play more straight men when not in musicals or comedies). Both take turns to play the idealistic hero and the criminal mastermind, and manage to mask to script’s shortcomings through sheer commitment to their performances which come with a generous helping of the finest, dry-cured ham.
I’m a fan of a lot of movies that are considered “cult” – THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, THE CROW, ICHI THE KILLER – but this one had passed me by. How had I allowed this to happen? It’s amazing! An excessive, incredibly dark and smart horror packed full of energy with (still) great gore effects and a unique sense of humour. Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, it shows more than a little of Mary Shelley’s influence as well. It’s packed full of so much casual depravity, blood, guts and nudity (the reason for the latter is due to several extended sequences set in a morgue and involving the return to life of its residents) that you can fully understand the captivation of 80s audiences, and even more understand why it is still popular today. Incredibly, it makes Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi’s efforts around the same period (as enjoyable as they are) seem quite tame in comparison.
Most pleased I’ve now seen: Re-animator (because it’s an unapologetic, yet sharp and aware trash-fest with a mesmeric OTT turn from Jeffrey Combs). SSP