Eye For Film >> Movies >> Point Break (1991) Film Review
Reviewed by: Stephen Carty
When newly-graduated FBI agent, Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves), is paired up with veteran, Angelo Pappas, (Gary Busey) they decide to try again on the legendary case of the bank-robbers known as ‘The Ex Presidents’. As Pappas believes the gang are surfers, Utah goes undercover at the beach and manages to get in with the surfing elite including the influential Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) and sweet girl, Tyler (Lori Petty). Soon Utah’s loyalty starts to come under question.
Reading the plot for Point Break, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a spoof involving comedy genius Leslie Nielsen. Thankfully, director Kathryn Bigelow (gasp! A woman directing an action movie) turns the premise to her advantage and delivers a motion picture that’s as exciting as it is good-looking.
Before you take the words “exciting” and “good looking” as polite terms for shallow and empty, take note that there’s a lot more to it than that. At its heart, Point Break is about the search for meaning. Though the ‘undercover cop’ plot is now a standard in moviemaking (ambitious officer begins to change and like their new way of life), it was much-less known in ‘91 and Reeves' arc from dedicated agent to content surfer is an interesting one. Dude.
For those who sit impatiently waiting for the action, you won’t be disappointed either. It’s impossible to review Point Break without using phrases like ‘adrenalin pumping’ or 'testosterone fuelled’. The morning raid packs a punch, the fight scene on the beach has a smack miles above the choreographed wire-fluff we get nowadays (which, ironically, descended from Reeves’ The Matrix) and the on-foot chase is a stand-out. Just watch out for the dog.
The credibility might unravel a bit towards the end – Pappas knocks out his superior, Johnny jumps out of a plane sans parachute – but it’s all done in character. There might be those who’ll question the characters' motives, but ultimately, these are mere sand particles that evaporate in the sea of the ultimate ride. That last sentence might sound cheesy, but after watching Point Break you can’t help but attempting a spot of philosophy.
Right from the opening credits, which switch between slow-motion shots of an unknown figure surfing (Bodhi?) and a rain-soaked Keanu firing shots at a training ground, it’s clear this is going to be a gorgeous movie. Aside from providing a basic layout for the action – surfing and shooting – it shows the beauty of two different worlds that are about to come together. Using the sea, sand and sky to alluring effect throughout, Bigelow crafts a few invitingly beautiful scenes (surfing in the early light, playing football on the beach illuminated by car headlights, Johnny’s first sky-dive) accompanied by Mark Isham’s poignant score.
As Johnny Utah, Reeves is a perfect choice and actually serves as a metaphor for the movie itself; questionable intelligence but looks attractive doing exhilarating things. On the flipside of his spiritual coin, Swayze is both magnetic and memorable as the Zen-like surf-guru while impressively doing his own skydive (he launches himself backwards out of a plane, no cut). Filling in the supporting roles, Busey lends some nice comic relief as veteran Pappas, John McGinley gets some of the best lines as number-crunching FBI senior Harp and Petty gets pass marks as Tyler despite her constantly high pitched voice
Though preposterous and borderline silly at times, we find ourselves – like Johnny – drawn to the rush as Point Break works a lot better than it has any right to. Many potential viewers might not like the prospect of an action movie made by a woman about Keanu learning to surf, but as Bodhi advises: “You want the ultimate, you’ve got to be willing to pay the ultimate price.”Reviewed on: 07 Dec 2008