Point Break| 1991
Somehow director Kathryn Bigelow manages to bring an almost mythic dimension to the barkingly daft premise of straight-laced FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) going deep undercover to infiltrate a gang of mystical surfer-dudes who fund their quest for inner enlightenment by robbing banks while disguised as the nations’ former leaders.
Utah is paired with cynically grizzled wacko Angelo Pappas (scene-stealing Gary Busey), who quickly deduces the gang’s lifestyle from traces of Sex Wax and the fact that they only pull jobs during the summer months.
Landlubber Utah suddenly finds himself plunged into California’s surfing culture, buying his first board from store housed in the Mediterranean-style octagonal building at the end of Manhattan Beach Pier.
After his clumsy attempts to master the necessary skills are roundly dissed by the more experienced Tyler (Lori Petty), Utah homes in on her as a potential inroad to the clannish beach fraternities.
Convincing Tyler that, like her, he’s a poor little orphan, Johnny Utah convinces her to teach him to ride the waves.
The beachfront café where Tyler works is Neptune’s Net, 42505 Pacific Coast Highway, a real surfer-biker hangout on the Malibu coast. It’s laidback and casual, good for a substantial seafood feast at one of the wooden picnic benches (though water restrictions mean the only restroom facilities are the basic port-o-potty). You can also glimpse this terrific hangout in The Fast And The Furious, though for Iron Man 3, it was mocked up in the studio.
Sure enough, Utah is soon bonding with a bunch of tanned, flouncy-haired beach boys, led by the charismatic Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) – “a real searcher for the ultimate ride”.
Back in the day job, a strand of hair retrieved from the ponytail of one of the Ex-Presidents reveals contaminants likely to point to a specific beach, and it’s up to Johnny and Angelo to collect comparison samples.
The beach on which Pappas manages to clip a lock from a couple of stoners is Dockweiler State Beach in Playa Del Rey, overlooked by the ominous bulk of the Scattergood power plant in El Segundo.
In the end, the match turns out to be ‘Latigo Beach’, where Johnny finds the locals nowhere near as friendly and Bodhi and his crew.
The beach scenes were filmed at Leo Carrillo State Beach, 35000 West Pacific Coast Highway, in Malibu, though more spectacular waves for the surfing sequences were found in Hawaii, at the legendary surfers’ paradise locations of Pipeline Beach, Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay, on the north shore of Oahu.
Expecting one more job before the end of summer, Pappas and Utah stake out the ‘Assured Trust Savings Loan Bank’. With Utah sent off to get a couple of meatball sandwiches and Pappas engrossed in Calvin & Hobbes, the Ex-Prezzes have pulled the hold-up before being spotted.
The ‘bank’ has since been substantially remodelled and is now sports shop Sporteve, 3849 Main Street, at the corner of Culver Boulevard, Culver City. The large arched windows in the background, by the way, are the venerable Culver Hotel – once owned by John Wayne and famous in Hollywood folklore as the place the little people stayed during filming of The Wizard Of Oz at the nearby MGM Studio.
Chased by the cops, the gang is soon inexplicably screeching about beneath the Marina Freeway in the parking lot of Fox Hills Mall – now Westfield Culver City, 6000 Sepulveda Boulevard, Culver City (which is also the Mall seen at the end of Superbad).
They stop to use a gas pump as an improvised flame-thrower to torch their getaway car. The gas station, where Utah tangles with Ronald Reagan, is now Triathlon Lab cycle shop, 600 North Catalina Avenue at Beryl Street in Redondo Beach.
The foot chase leads to Ballona Creek, the concrete river channel flowing through Culver City, where Johnny freezes after locking eyes with Reagan/Bodhi, and fires his gun into the air while shouting “Aaaargh!” – the grand gesture repeated by Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) in Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz.
Knowing his cover is now blown, Johnny is nevertheless obliged to join the lads in an edgy skydiving session. The hair-raising ‘speedstar’ formation was filmed above the red sandstone landscapes of Utah, over Lake Powell, a man-made reservoir on the Colorado River.
With Tyler being held captive, Johnny is obliged to join the Ex-Presidents for their final bank job.
The ‘Security Independence Bank’, where the robbery goes bloodily wrong after the gang break their own rules, is the Wells Fargo Bank, 2444 Wilshire Boulevard at Chelsea Avenue, overlooking Douglas Park in Santa Monica.
Johnny and Angelo follow Bodhi to Santa Monica Airport, 3223 Donald Douglas Loop South, Santa Monica, where Angelo is fatally wounded before Bodhi makes his getaway by plane.
Fast forward to a rainy ‘Australia’, where Johnny has doggedly trailed Bodhi, knowing that there’s no way he would miss the ‘50 year storm’ at ‘Bell’s Beach’ (a real surfing hotspot in Victoria).
’Torquay’, the rainy Australian town in which Johnny arrives, is Wheeler, about 35 miles south of Astoria, Oregon, where he parks on Oregon Coast Highway (101) at Gregory Street in front of the Old Wheeler Hotel, before heading down to the beach.
Actually, the town of Wheeler isn’t exactly on the coast – the apparent seafront is the Nehalem River estuary running into Nehalem Bay.
The titanic waves, where Bodhi (or his stunt double) finally disappears, were filmed back on Oahu at Waimea.