A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Nobody ever wins a fight.

In action on September 17, 2009 at 2:49 am

On Monday, Patrick Swayze – an actor who became mega-famous in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s, only to kind of disappear and make a sort of smaller comeback in recent years, with DONNIE DARKO, 11:14 and the A&E show THE BEAST – passed away. There had been lots of news about how sick the man was, and on the show, THE BEAST, you could see that his whole body had been traumatized from dealing with his illness.

Despite, this sad news, I’m here today(/night) to discuss the works of this man; and the great influence a number of his roles bestowed upon me. First of all, there’s one thing above all else, that was the main-line through almost all of Swayze’s roles. And that was having a personal code, and sticking to it (the one main exception I can think of to counter this is his motivational speaker in Donnie Darko – even though that role was kind of playing off that.), whether it was the “greaser” life in THE OUTSIDERS; the Buddhist/Nietzschean outlook of Bodhi in POINT BREAK and also in ROAD HOUSE as the bounce/philosopher Dalton. There’s also the characters in his more romantic movie roles, GHOST and DIRTY DANCING, obviously; where they have a clear and defined sense of right and wrong.

Beyond anything else though, the two movies that really have affected me most – starring Swayze – would be POINT BREAK and ROAD HOUSE. I remember the first time seeing the latter movie. It was at a friend of my parents house, where they were sitting down after some beer, and wanting to watch an action, manly movie. The man of the house was trying to describe to my parents how badass Dalton was, and was totally into the movie as we watched. And of course, the main thing that appealed to him – and my step-dad at the time – was the violence, and the way that Dalton dispatches his main opponent in the movie. But, they seemed to miss the point that fighting, for Dalton was not what he wanted. He did it to protect the woman he loved and the friends he had made in the small town (and well, revenge for someone else). As this blog post is titled, and in part of the movie, Dalton is shown to be a philosopher (with a degree and everything), and we get not only statements on life, pain and how to work a bar; but there’s also the fun, smart ass comments such as this:

Of course, there is violence in the movie, and Swayze shows that it’s something that he’s pretty good at dealing out. As he says, “pain don’t hurt,” when he’s getting stitched up by a doctor and her looking over his body and seeing scars and other recent wounds. In the end though, there’s a gauntlet that Dalton has to go through, to rid the town of it’s own private dictator, Brad Wesley (played by the amazing and ever growling Ben Gazzara).

There’s some definite cheese in the movie – whether it’s the moment of two patrons of the club Dalton is hired to fix up, one of which is offered the chance to kiss a woman’s breasts for $20 (the results of which, are hilarious and eventually, a giant bar fight); or the all-too welcome cameo by Sam Elliott as the man who apparently taught Dalton everything he knows – but it’s a classic, and get’s endlessly shown on television (naturally, for full effect you have to see it unedited).

Then there is the movie, barring his romantic leads, that made Swayze a legend. POINT BREAK, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, also starring Keanu Reeves, Gary Busy, Lori Petty and even short appearances by Anthony (Red Hot Chili Peppers’ frontman) Kiedis and John C. McGinley (if you needed a loud-mouthed, jerk off character, you either hired Bill Paxton, or John C. McGinley. McGinley’s scarier.)

The movie, actually focusses on FBI Agent Johnny Utah, a fresh from the academy agent, sent to LA’s bank robbery division. His first day in, he’s put on the case of the repeated bank robberies by a group called “The Ex-Presidents” (cuz, they wear halloween masks of….ex-presidents.) who have been hitting banks repeatedly for a couple of years and no one has any idea who they are – well, except for Utah’s partner, Angelo Pappas (Busey, in a great role – possibly his best right after the uncle in SILVER BULLET), who has a theory that the president’s are surfers. And how right he is. After Utah goes undercover, learns to surf, falls in love with the local surfer chick (Petty’s character, Tyler), we get to the showdown between Utah and Swayze’s Bodhi. Bodhi, has spent all movie being zen, talking about thrills and catching the big waves in the 50 year storm.

Bodhi has the bleached out hair, the dark, rugged tan and the personality that makes him the perfect contradiction of terms. He’s a hippied out, surfer dude, who just wants to catch the next thrill and go out doing what he loves; who also rushes into a bank with a .357 Magnum pointed at people’s faces and steals their money. Again, much like with Dalton in ROAD HOUSE, it’s this contradiction and the way that Swayze pulls it off, that makes these movies what I’ll always remember him for. Even better than the bank robbing thing is when Bodhi – and his crew – learn that Utah actually is an undercover FBI agent (after he interrupts one of their robberies and Bodhi and Utah have a running chase scene that covers probably 8 blocks, runs through houses, down into the LA River, and leads to the infamous scene, where Utah can’t take the shot at Bodhi, who is dead in his sights.

This then leads to the Presidents needing to take care of their loose ends, and the next morning inviting Utah out to go sky diving – with everyone knowing that the other side knows, but no one mentions it. There’s a fun moment with a parachute exchange, and then the sky-diving sequence.

(It is amazingly hard to find actual clips online for this movie, so here is a fan edit of the surfing/skydiving footage of the movie, set to some nice, relaxing music. Enjoy.)

So, it’s tragic that the man had to go, but I’m glad that he’s one of the artists who really left something behind for anyone to enjoy. I can’t imagine anyone not having one movie of Swayze’s that they like. These two are my favorites. I opened with a ROAD HOUSE quote, and here’s the POINT BREAK one to close out:

“If you want the ultimate, you’ve got to be willing to pay the ultimate price. It’s not tragic to die doing what you love.”

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