Kathryn Bigelow: Kick-Ass Directoro

I bitch about the cinematic affectations of the early ’90s a lot, so when I get a chance to extol the virtues of a movie from that period, I take it. Point Break, directed by Kathryn Bigelow: Kick-Ass Directoro, is up there with the original Lethal Weapon for best cop buddy action movie. Before Keanu Reeves lost the ability to express emotion, before Gary Busey began talking to pigeons, and before Patrick Swayze wore drag, they came together in this near-paragon of action movies, where a young FBI agent has to infiltrate a gang of bank robbers who never make mistakes, and wear masks of Carter, Reagan, Nixon and LBJ. And they’re surfers.
So we get North Shore meets Heat, in a way. Johnny Utah- his real name, not a moniker for being some “young, dumb and full of cum” rookie from the Midwest joining the big leagues in L.A.- was a Rose Bowl quarterback who busted his knee, and joined the Feds. John C. McGinley (Dr. Cox from “Scrubs”) is his boss who pegs him with the “young dumb” tag and it fits, because it’s Keanu Reeves. It’s a part he was born to play, and he gets to be a smart-ass throughout. He gets partnered with Pappas, the grizzled old agent who no one believes, because he has a crazy theory that the Ex-Presidents are surfers, and he’s Gary Busey. Would you believe Gary Busey? I wouldn’t.
But Keanu Reeves is just dumb enough to believe him, and we believe it, because he’s Keanu Reeves. He learns to surf, with the help of Lori Petty (Tank Girl) and a few montages. Lori Petty plays Tyler, an athletic surfer who shows him the ropes. In the end, she plays the damsel in distress, but she brings a lot of life and a dash of reality to this story of monolithic men. She introduces Utah to her ex, Bodhi (Swayze), a Zen surfer warrior who seeks the perfect wave, and the greatest thrill. Johnny gets his respect after whooping him in a game of beach football, and it slowly becomes clear that Utah’s new mentor just may be the ringleader of the ex-Presidents. Hmm…. could be!
The plot diverts attention to a bunch of white power douchebags and it’s believable enough. Swayze playsthe part of Bodhi with such energy and charisma that like Utah, we don’t want him to be a crook. We want to skydive with him, even when he might know we’re a cop. There is a sense of honor among them, which is what brought the comparison to Michael Mann’s Heat. The men respect each other, and after they know they are born enemies, they can’t shoot each other in the back. It’s like The Fox & the Hound in that respect, except you won’t cry. The scene was famously eulogized in Hot Fuzz, when Johnny Utah fires into the air in anger because he can’t shoot his friend. And as ridiculous as it looks, it works, in context.
The movie ends perfectly, with justice served but in a way that satisfies the story and its larger than life characters. Point Break works is an action thriller that plays to the formula of its genre, but transcends it, bringing the Zen mindset of the surfer to it. The FBI agent has to get his man, but he doesn’t have to let him die in a prison cell. It may not be as stylish as Mann’s thriller, but Bigelow paints her own canvas on the California shore with broad strokes, keeping us as exhilarated as if we were riding that perfect wave.


© 2010 Thomas Pluck.

80’s Trash of the Week: Surf II

Let’s watch Eric Stoltz, Cleavon Little, Ruth Buzzi, Stork from One Crazy Summer, Holden from Blade Runner and super-nerd Eddie Deezen in a ridiculous beach horror spoof about a nerd who creates Buzzz Cola to turn surfers into vile metalhead zombies! And no, there’s no “Surf 1.”

Surf II is one of those cheapo titty teen flicks like Joy Sticks (full review) and Student Bodies (full review) made for a quick buck. How Eric Stoltz and Cleavon Little ended up here after Blazing Saddles and Fast Times at Ridgemont High is beyond me, but here they are. Little is one of my favorite underappreciated actors, and here he plays Principal Daddy-O, ruling over a class of unruly surfer slobs that he trades “yo mamas!” with, and who race to the beach when he tells them two of their classmates died while surfing. The local radio station is “The Dildo, stickin’ it to ya as always, K-DIL!” and girls love to spontaneous flash their boobs at guys with surfboards on their roofs.

Cleavon, why?

The lead cop is Lyle Waggoner, Major Steve Trevor from “Wonder Woman,” who plays Chief Boyardie. His deputy is Inspector Underwear. Yes, it’s that kind of movie. And here at Pluck You, Too!, we like that kind of movie. There’s a sort of charm to this level of stupidity that oft gets overlooked. There’s nothing clever about it, but the audacity of dope required to make a movie like this and put your name on it, well I respect that. There is actual surfing in this movie, but this is no North Shore (full review); but it does have plenty of its own pluses. For example, Chuck (Stoltz) and his pals, including the fat party dude Johnny Big Head and Jacko- Judge Rheinhold-alike Tom Villard- all hang out at the arcade, so there’s plenty of ’80s video game nostalgia for you.

Johnny Big Head and Eric Stoltz, pre-Mask

Their rivals are some punks from L.A. who wear make-up reminiscent of KISS meets Goth, and can remove Buzzz Cola bottle caps with their eye sockets. They are transformed into zombie cola-guzzling monsters by Menlo the Uber Nerd in his underwater lair, which also mangles any surfers on the waves above it. Menlo is played by Eddie Deezen, probably most famous as the voice of Mandark from “Dexter’s Lab,” has made a career playing gangly whiny nerds in Grease, 1941, Midnight Madness and Wargames. In fact, I distinctly remember him playing a guy in a military uniform whose balls get attacked by a German Shepherd- if you remember that movie, put the name in the comments.
At the beach, the kids play volleyball and girls have this niggling habit of losing their tops. Oh, stuff like that just happened in the ’80s. Heck, when I was 13, I remember waiting in line for the rollercoaster at Great Adventure on a hot day and this chick was fanning her skirt, and not wearing any panties. She was probably inspired by movies like this. The beach is also infested by two Fat Guys- that’s their names in the credits, too- who don’t speak, but are just generally disgusting. When we meet them, they both fart so loudly it tears the backs of their wetsuits open, and we’re treated to a view of hairy ass-crack. If only their antics ended there…

Things begin go awry when Jacko gets a dose of Buzzz Cola and begins acting strangely. His eyes darken, and he begins guzzling motor oil like it’s Kool-Aid. See, this is all part of Menlo’s diabolical plan to ruin the summer surf contest and get his revenge on the surfers. His henchgirl Sparkle, played by Aussie cutie Linda Kerridge, is a nerdgirl that he’s made gorgeous with Science!!! and who does his bidding so she doesn’t revert to her former self.

He gives her blue hair and make-up like Pris in Blade Runner, and soon his monster cola zombies are eating frogs in science class, and eating the film at the movie theater. Jacko’s pals try to lure him back from the slob side, but it ends up turning into a contest of whether he or Johnny Big Head can eat the more disgusting stuff, starting with seaweed and dead fish that washed up on the beach and culminating in the Fatso Twins eating sub sandwiches covered in seagull poop. And farting, of course. It’s like one of the movies Jack Black’s character made in Tropic Thunder.

Sadly, Tom Villard gets little screen time while he’s not a zombie. He was one of the funniest parts of One Crazy Summer (full review) but tragically died of AIDS-related pneumonia in ’94, after performing in a Paulie Shore movie. Not sure which is worse. Lyle Waggoner is quite entertaining as the corny cop, Eric Stoltz is always good and doesn’t try to ape Spicoli, though it would be the perfect movie for it. Cleavon Little steals every scene he’s in as usual, but it’s not much of a victory here. The movie just drags on way too long.

Blue moon… I saw you standing alone… without a dream in my heart…

The gags mostly miss, but they come so fast that some actually hit. A kid glues his feet to his surfboard so he can’t fall off; Cindy Lou and Lindy Sue- the two plain girls with glasses who get passed over by Chuck & Jacko for busty beach babes, are constantly working a “I must increase my bust” exerciser or calling the cops when the boys are smoking weed with random bimbos. On the other hand, we’re subjected to frog races in science class put to “Chariots of Fire,” and guys eating birdshit sandwiches. Johnny Big Head jumping around like The Hulk, and the finale where Menlo reveals why he wants revenge- because he was spiked with a sex change drug- are just funny enough to make this turd watchable.

“You know what it’s like being the only guy on the beach with tits? It’s miserable!”

It does have a good ’80s soundtrack going for it, with Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded me with Science,” Talk Talk, Oingo Boingo, the Stray Cats, the Circle Jerks, plus surf music from the Beach Boys, Dick Dale, and the Nightriders. Apparently it was released, and it would be a fine score on vinyl, and probably would cost more than it’s worth. Sometimes you need a trip down memory lane to remind you that the good old days weren’t that great, and Surf II will remind you that everything looks better in the rear view mirror.

Beers Required to Enjoy: 3
Could it be remade today? not a chance in Hell
Quotability Rating: zero
Cheese Factor: fondue-riffic
High Points: Cleavon & Lyle
Low Point: Birdshit eating & hairy ass cracks
Gratuitous Boobies: Lost count!

All 68 entries in our ongoing series of 80’s Trash of the Week are here.

And your daily dose of healthy breasts are after the cut:

Hurray for boobies!
The girls respond to the mooning.

Fatboy gets knocked out by knockers.