The story is your basic high-concept Hollywood action premise. Utah is a young, eager FBI agent assigned to the Los Angeles bank robbery task force. His crusty veteran partner, Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey), has been trying for years to bring down a highly professional crew of bank robbers called the Ex-Presidents (known as such because they disguise themselves with novelty masks of former presidents during their robberies). Despite the ridicule of his colleagues, Pappas has long held the belief that the Ex-Presidents are surfers who use the robbery money to fund their presumably lavish lifestyle. So, with nothing else to go on, Pappas and Utah come up with the plan that Utah will go undercover as a surfer in order to infiltrate the beach-loving subculture and bring down the Ex-Presidents.
Utah's first move is to enlist the services of resident surfer girl-beach rat, Tyler Endicott (Lori Petty), who coaches Utah in the ways of surfing. She barks out orders like a drill sergeant and Utah does his best to keep up. These scenes are treated with all the earnestness of a samurai-in-training learning the ways of his master -- except for the samurai-in-training speaks like he just stole Spicoli's bong and the master acts like she just stuck her finger in a light socket... and liked it. Together, they're hilarious and thoroughly enjoyable, one of the best cinematic couplings of the early '90s. It's no wonder their characters fall in love.
Through Tyler, Utah is introduced to Bodhi (Patrick Swayze), a thrill-seeking surfing legend who lives life on the edge. After a brief butt-sniffing period, which includes a classic beach football sequence in which Bodhi and Utah repeatedly tackle each other and wrestle in the surf (in a totally hetero, completely non-homoerotic way), the undercover FBI agent and the career surf bum decide to be buds -- that is, until it becomes increasingly clear that Bodhi and his pals are the Ex-Presidents, forcing Utah to decide between busting his new friends and indulging his desire to live life for the crazy thrills it can deliver, like they do.
It's no exaggeration to say that Point Break was ahead of its time. While it can accurately be described as an action film, a heist movie, or even simply a thriller, Point Break is also the first "extreme sports" movie. Director Kathryn Bigelow makes sure to keep the story rolling by packing every crevice of the film with surfing and skydiving and high-impact sports. And Swayze's Bodhi is the first character to give voice to the "extreme" ethos of treading the line between life and death to squeeze every last bit of enjoyment out of one's time on earth. And, really, who better to articulate such a lofty notion than Swayze? It's pretty clear the answer is no one.
But it would be wrong to imply that Point Break is anyone's movie but Keanu's. In it, he breaks free of the wooden teenage stoner label he'd been saddled with since his performance in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, and takes his craft to a whole new place, becoming the wooden adult stoner he's been playing ever since. A breakthrough role, no doubt.
Just like its star, Point Break is an easy target for ridicule--even now I can hear Utah's primal declaration, "I am an FBI agent!" -- but it's also an easy movie to watch, more than once even. Sort of like Keanu himself. You can't take your eyes off it, no matter how bad you know it to be. It's mindless spectacle at its empty-headed best. Watch it. Enjoy it. Just don't think about it.
The new "Pure Adrenaline Edition" DVD includes deleted scenes and four making-of featurettes.
Run time: 122 mins
In Theaters: Friday 12th July 1991
Box Office Worldwide: $105M
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Production compaines: JVC Entertainment Networks, Largo Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Fresh: 39 Rotten: 18
IMDB: 7.2 / 10
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Producer: Peter Abrams, Robert L. Levy
Screenwriter: W. Peter Iliff
Starring: Patrick Swayze as Bodhi, Keanu Reeves as FBI Special Agent John 'Johnny' Utah, Gary Busey as FBI Agent Angelo Pappas, Lori Petty as Tyler Ann Endicott, John C. McGinley as FBI Agent Ben Harp, James LeGros as Roach, Anthony Kiedis as Tone, Christopher Pettiet as 15, Lee Tergesen as Rosie
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