Monday, July 27, 2009

RV!: Point Break (1991), 229) The Hurt Locker (2008)

RV!: Point Break (1991) Dir: Kathryn Bigelow Date Released: July 1991 Date Seen: July 24th, 2009 Rating: 2.5/5

229) The Hurt Locker (2008) Dir: Kathryn Bigelow Date Released: June 2009 Date Seen: July 26th, 2009 Rating: 3.75/5

As a storyteller, Kathryn Bigelow is not interested in accuracy, sacrificing precision of narrative detail for the sake of frenetic motion with alarming zeal. Her 1991 airhead actioner Point Break features cringe-inducing dialogue that lays bear its characters psychological need for bigger, more dangerous thrills with the delicacy of a steamroller. That token bluntness is a part of her characters' make-up, something that lends their respective characters a semblance of reality while inviting and earning scoffs for its knowing clumsinesss ("Fear causes hesitation, and hesitation will cause your worst fears to come true," says Patrick Swayze's surfer outlaw Bodhi during a moment of dim-bulbed enlightenment). 

No matter how much more polished Bigelow's 2008 Iraq War thriller The Hurt Locker is compared to Point Break, it's only slightly less blunt. Locker star Jeremy Renner is depicted by screenwriter Mark Boal with the frankness of a soldier trained to be as direct and unpolished in his thoughts and deeds as possible. When Renner's bomb squad crew try to talk him down from putting his life at risk for kicks, as in the final scene of interaction between Anthony Mackie and Renner, they reflect that lack of delicacy. Realistically, they seem more real as a supporting cast for it. 

At the same time, the monotony of their concern for him turns his fragile psyche into a declarative statement instead of a nuanced condition to be observed. Renner and co. barrel through the episodes that make up their company's tour of duty gracelessly, which is to be expected in an action film. In this context, the character is not meant to grow nor become more complex over time because of his unforgiving setting but rather become more transparent in his goals. Never mind subtlety; mission accomplished.

Bigelow is however best recognized as a visual stylist because of her tense and glossy action scenes. In both the action scenes of both Point Break and The Hurt Locker you can see a joyful attention to unkempt motion that is startling in its rugged beauty. As showcases of Bigelow's skill, they're idiosyncratic and highly engaging displays of showmanship. They're also more immediately enticing than unnecessary talk about the dangers of being an adrenaline junkie. Transparency has its price, I guess.


  1. Vis a vis, what you're describing,the scene from Hurt Locker that really pushed the limit of what I would tolerate was when they were loading the younger white soldier into the helicopter and he was straight up screaming at Renner, "You're an adrenaline junky and your actions got me hurt! Blah, blah, blah" Otherwise, I was really on board with the movie. I think you've given it a pretty fair appraisal, but you're hitting harder on its downsides than seems justified by Hurt Locker, as considered outside the context of Point Break. How would you evalutate Near Dark in this reading of Bigelow?

  2. Thanks, sir.

    That scene you described bothered me but what bothered me more was the scene where Renner's telling his kid about losing the things he love as he grows older. That bordered on unknowing self-parody.

    I think I hit harder on THE HURT LOCKER's down-side b/c I don't think it's great and I wasn't blown away by it. It's not fair to praise Bigelow for her strengths w/o dumping on her weaknesses and I feel at times, the latter bothers me more than the former does while I'm watching the film. Retrospectively, I can appreciate it but during the film, its fingers on a clean-ish chalkboard.

    NEAR DARK's an interesting exception. The guy takes on a passive role in that one so his experience is submerged in his supporting cast's actions. I need to rewatch that one; saw it for the first time earlier this year. Glad I got it for cheap so I have easy access to it. Also never seen STRANGE DAYS but I have seen the clips everyone checks off when they talk about Bigelow's macho man adrenaline fetish (mostly the VR scenes).