Point Break (1991)
Point Break (1991)

Genre: Action and Heist Running Time: 2 hrs. 2 min.

Release Date: July 12th, 1991 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Kathryn Bigelow Actors: Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Gary Busey, Lori Petty, John C. McGinley, James Le Gros, John Philbin

 


 

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uxtaposing surfing with target practice (some unsubtle foreshadowing) introduces two very disparate professions. On his first day with the Los Angeles FBI, 25-year-old Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) is reminded that he’s starting at the bottom of the totem pole. With a proper tongue-thrashing by superior Ben Harp (John C. McGinley, whose role is little more than yelling at his subordinates in a hilariously exaggerated manner) and disregard from veteran Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey), he’s the bright young rookie that no one wants to respect, let alone acknowledge. Nevertheless, Utah gets caught up to a major bank robbery case: the “Ex-presidents” are a team of expert thieves who wear masks of former presidents, never shoot anyone, and always get away clean. Their record is impressive: 27 banks in 3 years.

“You wanna nail the bank robbers and be a big hero?” Pappas believes that no one will catch these crooks, effectively giving up on digging for clues. But Johnny desperately wants to prove himself, insisting that they pursue the heisters. When he learns that Pappas believes the Ex-presidents are surfers, based on trace evidence and their summertime attacks, Johnny decides to go undercover as a surfer to get closer to that specific clique. At the start, he ingratiates himself into the life of Tyler Ann Endicott (Lori Petty), who can teach him a thing or two about the water.

And then, an excessive amount of surfing montages ensue. Almost comically, there’s a lot more going on that just catching some waves; football montages, beach montages, roughhousing montages, reconnaissance montages, and partying montages also populate the screentime. Of course, this is followed by additional surfing montages. Plenty of time is devoted to exploring the lifestyles and beliefs of this crowd (the spiritual side of the sea and the pursuit of the ultimate wave), attempting to bring the audience to the same level of familiarity as Johnny is with surfer guru Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) and his wild group of friends, whom he meets through Tyler.

The cavorting actually carries on for so long that the bank robbery plot is nearly forgotten. Fortunately, a sting operation brings back the action and intensity – as well as nudity and considerable violence. But it’s a mere interruption to the lengthier shots on the ocean, where the camera takes in the sights and the stunts. Additional heists, car chases, and fistfights do occur, many demonstrating a flair for creativity and timing (director Kathryn Bigelow is certainly honing her craft), but the storyline takes some odd tangents. The FBI maneuvers comes across as terribly amateurish, while Johnny’s failure to realize the dangers of his various situations are equally as unprofessional, reckless, and unbelievable.

Much of the film feels as if an excuse for the cast to surf and skydive – a curious combination of daredevilry. But seeing Reeves play a vastly different character than usual is refreshing; he’s intermittently convincing as an action hero, even if his emotions don’t quite land. And though the narrative is rough in places, the pacing isn’t bad; enough mayhem occurs at the right spots to keep up the momentum. Weirdly, the writers assume the villain of the film will be personable enough to warrant a semi-favorable outcome, but he’s instead remarkably unsympathetic, making the finale something of a misstep – and largely unsatisfying.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10