Tag Archives: Keanu Reeves

Cinema-Maniac: Point Break (1991) Review

Point Break in a way is a precursor to “The Fast and the Furious”. Both films share nearly identical plot lines; a character whose life philosophy for his life’s passion intrigues the protagonist, undercover cop gets into a specific extreme sport, protagonist has a time limit to capture his culprit, and if continue to mention more similarities would ruin the film for newcomers. Yet, “Point Break” ends out being the better film because it understands it story and characters that in the grand scheme of nonsensical material works in sync with how everything structure on a technical level and in story telling.

Point Break is about an FBI agent going undercover to catch a gang of bank robbers who may be surfers. Build around a preposterous assumption by an experienced FBI agent once it gets started logic never enter. It knows this poking fun of itself with flimsy gathering of evidence like examining the tan line of a bank robber behind in surveillance footage. Once it addresses the sillier side of its evidence to catch it criminals it goes back to business. For as silly as the plot gets it characters are more rooted in the world. Specifically our protagonist, Johnny Utah, who despite being the hero is inept in his job. He’s the different kind of action hero who screw ups contribute in worsening his current dilemma and avoids using an organ called the brain. Utah doesn’t sound so much like a hero as he does a fumbling idiot. However, with the structure of the plot his action goes along with the philosophy the criminal shares. Much in line with the ebb and flow of a wave; tension mounts slowly building to a climax each time, which is slightly resolved in an abrupt crash until the next pique. Formulaic as the script make itself be goes hand in hand with the views presented by its characters. Always searching for the next adrenaline rush before it crashes and burn. Both the hero and antiheroes share their flaws resulting in consequences on both side. Characterization is plentiful giving more meaning to the action, though never sympathetic given the tonal switch it characters can cause. Although, most of Utah development are later turned into plot devices and what occurs to him follows some predictable guidelines for any film that follows an undercover agent. These characters are supported by some great dialogue that manage to get a laugh because of nothing the sort would be things the action genre would expect to produce.

Keanu Reeves persona perfectly matches the protagonist he portrays. Reeves never vocalizes a range of emotions when speaking, but his demeanor to ease from being a care free surfer to full on hard boiled FBI agent is believable. No matter how much Reeves gets beaten in an action scene whenever his character is allowed a finer moment he sells it. Patrick Swayze is eccentric as an antihero. He’s loose whenever he speaks philosophical on surfing the waves as his life meaning. Reading such lines and given them as much heart no matter how silly it might sound to non surfers. When needed too Swayze can turn a complete one-eighty that borderline on adrenaline addict whose needs more. Lori Petty plays the token love interest. She’s not given much range in the kind of scenes she gets either being loose or life threatening dramatic. Her performance is good inspite of the lack of range she’s offer. Gary Busey wisecracks hilariously throughout playing off greatly of from an equally funny John C. McGinley. Kathryn Bigelow with vigorous direction knows how to modulate when it comes to action. While not impressive or big in scale are entirely filled with stunt work and pyrotechnics-driven, as we see skydiving, surfing, crazy stunts, and one good on-foot chases through many location. The action presented remain clear building tension flowing like a wave. Cinematographer Donald Peterman creates camerawork to draw us into its mindset. Shots of the surfing and surfers are close-ups, creating an immediate and intimate bond for the audience are captured with graceful camera movement.

Point Break is preposterous, and that is exactly why it works. On the surface what seen is as a dumb action movie is given more thought by smart filmmakers. The heroes and antiheroes are fleshed out given more meaning to their actions applying more weight to their consequences. Acting wise there’s not memorable performance from Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze, but both fit the parts with their onscreen persona being natural for the characters they portray. It understands the philosophy of it characters life passion incorporating it into the structure of how made it work in perfect zen.


Cinema-Maniac: 47 Ronin (2013) Movie Review

In films there are usually certain characteristics that help decide what seen regardless how it turns and one of those is the Samurai. In work of fictions or based around true events Samurai films have provided some of my personal favorite characters and stories. Alongside with an interest in Samurai culture in films “47 Ronin” was inevitable to be seen. Unfortunately this interpretation of the classic story butchered everything that made the original story timeless.

47 Ronin tells the story of a band of samurai set out to avenge the death and dishonor of their master at the hands of a ruthless shogun. The first and immediate problem with the film is the departure from the source material which is based on true events. It was emblematic of the loyalty, sacrifice, persistence, and honor that people should preserve in their daily lives especially during a time where the Samurai class was struggling to maintain a sense of itself – warriors with no war, a social class without a function. Important details like that turned an epic story of revenge into an influential story of the importance of self worth and honor. This adaptation is a literal trainwreck in every sense of the word. Taking an established story and giving a Western touch that severely damages it identity. Understanding of the Samurai code is nonexistent as it leaves audiences in the dust. Unless you have minimal understanding of Samurai culture and their code of honor none of what the Samurai expresses come across with any meaning. Down to the basic details such as explaining the significance behind the title of a Ronin (a masterless Samurai/someone who is without a home) aren’t touched upon. Without getting across the bare essentials it’s doom upon arrival. Since the writers don’t know how to implement Eastern culture into the film both sides are left unsatisfied. Those unfamiliar with the story will misinterpret its intention and those familiar with the story will be infuriated by not only the liberties that were taken, but how ignorant it is to what made the “47 Ronin” legendary.

If it were be taken as pure fiction it has all sign of life stripped away. Fantasy elements that were meant to be exuberant are lifeless. Dry dialogue tells us of an Japan that is home to dangerous monsters, witches, and fearless warriors. Main problem being hardly implementing fantasy elements in a story that clearly didn’t need any of it. Every time an element of fantasy is introduced they are blatant metaphors that hammered their point across. An important scene in the Tengu (a legendary creature depicted with both human and avian characteristics) Temple where the ronin go to gain swords serves as the creation of the film’s black hole. Our non-Japanese protagonist immediately tells the leader how to pass the test given to him defeating the whole purpose of testing his leader loyalty to his men. Not only that, but it’s also introduces the non-Japanese protagonist to a supernatural abilities which he uses only once later on in the film. Everything portrayed is meant to hammer a single point further establishing the one dimensionality of every single thing in its writing.

Obviously a two hour film can’t developed 47 individual characters into three dimensional characters, but without a single worthwhile character ensures emptiness. Kai, the protagonist (a work of fiction) is simply a tool in the film. He’s not a white man who leads Japanese to reclaim their honor. No, Kai is a man who’s constantly told to annoying extremes that he’s not a Samurai and a half bread. Beating the protagonist down with secondary characters has two effects; the first being it makes Kai unlikable because he’s given little reason to stick with his fellow ronin who constantly show no respect and the second being it makes our heroes as equally dislikable as the villain. Speaking of which we’re only told through the ronin words he’s a terrible man and yet never once do we see any reason to hate him. Given how poorly it establishes how deeply Japan values honor the heroes motivation is just as easily missable. Romance is severely half baked. Since most of the film is spend on the ronin preparation to avenge their master what little time it spends to establish a romance early on in the film is fades away and reappears later carrying no weight to the overall story. Detracting from Kai journey to save her seeing his love interest is simply a flat plot device.

Keanu Reeves performance is wooden. His character is written in a way that he shows little emotion as possible in which Reeves delivers on his front. Always looking broody and down on his feet when interacting with the rest of the cast. Reeves here comes into focus in action mode making him appear cool as his dialogue is among the simplest of the cast. The Japanese actors have trouble saying their lines in English. It’s made very evident (five minutes in no less) that the Japanese actors aren’t comfortable speaking in English. Their line delivery is awkward and sometimes difficult to comprehend. Only sounding natural when speaking in their native language. Action scenes are a dull affair utilizing the best in random swinging. Sword techniques are fluid requiring careful reading of your opponent movement and speed; something not made evident in the film sword fights. Our ronin simply strike without planning resulting in a stalemate of pointlessly clashing swords. More characters are killed by projectile than a slash of a blade lessening the effect of the main weapon in most of the action scenes. All of this with editing that has a tendency to exist scenes abruptly. I appreciate the editor wanting to make the film end more quickly, but doing so did more harm than good to the way the film plays out. Just about the only compliment that could be given to “47 Ronin” is it cinematography. It’s varied in location and has some good looking scenes (especially ones involving fire). Nice visuals can’t make for bad acting, unimaginative action, horrid editing, and a plot that has sign of life to be found.

47 Ronin is a misinterpretation of an Eastern story told by Westerners that don’t understand it. Combining Japanese folktale, American empty set pieces, Japan Samurai culture, and American lazy writing creates a fusion of a culturally unsatisfying film. It’s more than a bad adaptation, it’s more than a awful movie, and more than a generic blockbuster, but it’s a complete butchering representing the worst in Eastern and Western filmmaking.