This year has really, and I mean in a huge way, sucked for celebrity deaths. Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell an amazingly gifted Australian actor, Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, Michael Jackson, a number of others and now Patrick Swayze joins the ranks of the dearly departed.
Do I allow a false claim of ‘The man was an acting GOD’ to fall from my fingertips to my keyboard? No. Patrick had a spotty career. A number of excellent movies mixed in somewhat evenly with a number of absolute trainwrecks. But, in his case he’s lucky. Patrick Swayzes acting resume, is filled with the kind of good movies that easily overshadow the bad ones. Even some of his bad movies are highly enjoyable. Just look at ‘Steel Dawn’ for a prime example. A movie so bad it reeks, yet it’s absolutely enthralling to watch. A lone wanderer in a future where the worlds decimated by nuclear war etc etc etc.
But I digress, for every bad movie Swayze made, there’s an equally superior one, a classic if you will. If you’re a red blooded American adult male (I’m a red blooded Australian 30 something) I’m betting you know about Red Dawn. Released at the height of the Cold War, its story of a small town ragtag group of kids fidhting back against Cuban and Russian invaders who take control of their town (and as we later find out, the whole southern part of the North American continent!) Swayze was Jed, older brother to Charlie Sheens ‘Matt’, who when leadership is not given, but thrust upon him, forced to look after these mere kids, chooses not only to survive, but to fight back and ultimately become a force of his own to be reckoned with. In one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the movie, we watch Jed with his dying, if not dead, brother Matt in his arms, stumble to a park bench, then slowly pass away. If you can watch that scene and not have it affect you, you’ve got a colder heart than mine.
“I found it Matt…” “Bullshit Jed. Noone knows where Jennifer Greys career went!”
For years Swayze could barely do any wrong. A few minor missteps here and there, but soon he followed up with Roadhouse, Ghost and Point Break. Roadhouse certified the man as an action star if Red Dawn hadn’t already. I’d love to say Steel Dawn did, but no, really it didn’t. Roadhouse proved one major point… doing ballet made for some mean roundhouse kicks!
Point Break was the movie of a damn generation. There was no cooler movie than this for *years*. Bodhi was the guy every red blooded male wanted to be. Surf during your free time, rob banks for work, get away with it and live a kickass life style. Many movies tried to copy it, such as that Charlie Sheen one with the parachute crims… it’s that forgettable I’m not even going to IMDB to look it up. But no movie ever claim close to Point Break until nearly 15 years later when it was remade (and yes you goddamn well KNOW it was) into another damn fine movie, The Fast and The Furious. Plots are identical, situations identical, just swap banks for trucks and surfing for cars and an awesome head of bleach blonde shaggy hair for a chrome dome.
Though it may have been seen as Keanus breakout movie, it was definitely Swayzes film. Every time he was on screen, everyone else was overshadowed, he emenated every kind of cool you could possibly think of. At the same time, he emenated every kind of menace. A combination that’s hard to perfect on film, but the man did it with charm and ease.
Then we come to Swayzes true masterpiece. A movie that brought tears to the eyes of every single person who ever saw it. Those who didn’t? Even in private? You are a group of cold, heartless bastards. It’s a movie of true love transcending life and death, of a love so strong, that even crossing over cannot stop it. Of course you know I’m talking about Ghost. It’s the movie Whoopi won the Oscar for. Well deserved too. I still think Swayze should’ve gotten one, but what do I know. I’m not one of the hordes who pays off the Academy…
Ghost touched something inside all of us. Swayzes role of the betrayed Sam, murdered by a random thug, finding out his best friend set it up to happen, was incredible to watch. His chemistry with Moore had me believing from the first scene together that they were real lovers. His relationship to Oda Mae Brown was fantastically played out. From his genuine shock when she finally calls out ‘SAM WHEAT!’ upon his constant bombarding for her to say his name, to prove she hears him, to his ‘OIM HENRY THE EIGHTH I AM I AM!’ rendition, forcing poor Oda Mae into the position of helping, was just a joy to behold.
Possibly the most heartbreaking moment of the movie, was when his friend Carl, played by Tony Goldwyn with just the *perfect* amount of sleaze and endearment, gets the sheet of glass through his gut and emerges from his body to see Sam. The look on Sams face said a billion words. The betrayal, the heartbreak, the anger and the reassurance that Molly was now safe and finally, the knowledge that real justice would be done as the shadows were about to drag him off somewhere very unpleasant.
Ultimately with his movies, wether its Black Dog, Father Hood, Dirty Dancing, Red Dawn, Donnie Darko or whatever, Swayzes always shown that he’s got what it takes to bring a good performance to the forefront. He’s always been highly appealing as an actor and his talent will be genuinely missed.
What I will say about his cancer will be brief but it boils down to this. My grandpa, or Pa as I called him, died of Bowel cancer around 18 months ago. My family watched a man who at one stage was six foot two and two twenty pounds (100 kilos to you aussies) degrade down to around a 110 pound man (there abouts) of around a 5’8″ frame. It was an amazing transformation, a horrible one. This once huge powerhouse of a man, over the course of a year and a bit literally became a shell of his former self. It was horrible to see what he went through, I would hate to experience it myself and I hope neither I nor my son ever do. When my Pa passed away, my Nana said she was glad, they were married 60 years, he died at 82, she said it was a good thing, he was no longer in pain. You didn’t live 82 years Patrick, you died at a relatively young 57, but like my Nana, I have to echo the sentiment, I’m glad your pain is finally gone. Rest in peace, goodbye and thank you for a wonderful, wonderful catalogue of movies you leave behind as a legacy to your fans.
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Your interviewer from Down under, I’ve never ‘thrown a shrimp on a barbie’ or ‘tied a kangaroo down sport’ much to my countrymen’s disappointment. I’ve developed a love for cinema over the years that’s only matched by my love for talking to people. I’m raising my ten year old son myself while studying my Bachelor of Education to teach Math and English in high school. I was once told I could never do interviews, that it was too ‘select’ and that ‘you have to know people’… one Skype and IMDB pro account later here I am.