To wrap up Point Break week we’re deep diving into one of the best scenes in the film: the chase scene. It starts with cars, ends in a footrace, includes an inexplicable dog punt, and features one of the most indelible moments in action cinema. The chase scene is a perfect encapsulation of everything that makes Point Break great thirty years later. It’s a technically accomplished action sequence, it’s just that little bit weird, and it lands on an emotional beat between Bodhi and Johnny Utah that defines their twisted, star-crossed, toxic relationship. But it’s also just really f-cking cool. Let’s break it down.
First of all, we have Gary Busey as Agent Pappas, Johnny’s partner and all around Very Busey Character. Pappas has a lot of great lines in the film, and “I’m so hungry I could eat the ass end out of a dead rhino” is certainly one of his most graphic. He also, notably, missed a Lincoln pulling up outside the bank they’re staking out, waiting for the Ex-Presidents to rob it.
Look at “Reagan” knock “Nixon’s” gun away. FORESHADOWING.
The chase is on! Part of what makes this segment of the chase so good is the lack of music on the soundtrack. It’s the standard set by Bullit, to let the diegetic sound of metal and tires and road noise dominate and add to the visceral quality of the scene. You can craft a good car chase to music, Nobody is a recent example, which works for the more stylized action movies. But Kathryn Bigelow’s signature isn’t stylized action, it’s very grounded, practical craft. The lack of music works well here.
I just want to point out how excellent this slide is. Any time you see action in a wide frame, medium distance shot like this, it’s real. Quick editing can fake close-up action (see also: the Taken films), and computers can fake wide shots (any contemporary war movie), but medium-wide shots are designed for real deal action. It’s so pretty.
Here the chase switches to a foot race, for arguably the most famous sequence in the film. Also, credit where it’s due, Keanu has an excellent movie run.
“Reagan” just having a normal one.
This movie f-cking rules.
And they’re off! Also, note how this echoes the previous shot of the car coming around the corner. Bigelow builds a lot of symmetry into this chase scene.
And now for the most controversial moment in the entire film. “Reagan” throws A DOG at Johnny, who then PUNTS that dog into oblivion. And…why don’t we hate Johnny Utah? Could any other actor get away with this, or is this just a Keanu thing? Also, John Wick would dropkick Johnny Utah into next year for this.
Oh, get up Nancy Kerrigan. The whole “Johnny is a former college football star who blew out his knee” plot point exists solely to justify this moment.
Ever since I compared Johnny and Bodhi’s relationship to a star-crossed romance and said Point Break is about the inevitable destruction of toxic masculinity, dudes have been arguing with me, but, um, Johnny emptying his clip in frustration is symbolic of something. Bodhi won’t let anyone even point a gun at Johnny, HE is the only one who can physically engage with Johnny, and Johnny is “emptying his clip” for Bodhi. Anyway, these are two totally cool besties who don’t have any sublimated desires whatsoever!
The Point Break chase scene remains one of the best chase scenes in American cinema. The combination of car and foot chase is inspired, and the odd but fun little touches like punting the dog and the gas flamethrower make it memorable, and that poleaxed ending remains one of the most homage moments of modern cinema. Enjoy the Point Break chase scene in full: