Point Break

Movie Review #828: Despite a hypnotic performance from Patrick Swayze, ‘Point Break’ fails to successfully mix its philosophy and action.

★★½
By Red Stewart

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Action, Crime, Thriller
Rated R (contains violence, nudity, profanity)
122 minutes

Sometimes I feel like filmmakers try too hard to make their products greater than what they are. They obviously don’t have a concrete story down, so they figure pumping in a lot of random philosophy will make up for the deficits in the script.

Such is the case with “Point Break”, an action movie recognized as a classic of the ‘90s like the first two “Die Hard” sequels and “Ed Wood”. In Los Angeles, several bank robberies by a group of thieves wearing ex-president masks have left the police stumped and frustrated. New FBI recruit Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) is partnered with veteran agent Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey), who’s convinced that the robbers are local surfers based on their tanning patterns. Using this theory, Utah goes undercover, eventually meeting and befriending the gang and their leader, Bodhi (Patrick Swayze).

Philosophical films, especially ones dealing with morality, are difficult to make not due to technical limitations but because the director’s idea of these metaphysical concepts can be hard to convey on the big screen. As such, you often see many stories interpreted differently by critics and audiences alike. This might be an intentional decision on the writer/director’s part, but there’s a difference between being smart and thinking you’re smart (I’m looking at you, Shyamalan), and unfortunately the latter is how I feel about most of Bigelow’s work on “Point Break”. Are these burglars saying that their way of life while surfing on the waves is how everything should be; unrestrained and without rules? Or are they simply living life day-to-day, with not a care for the future? Take the famed skydiving scene where good guys and bad guys alike put their faith in the others’ hands. What was Bigelow trying to say there? I don’t need my hand held for these things, but we’re given no real direction as to where she wants to go with these situations.

Patrick Swayze is mesmerizing as Bodhi. Having done all his own stunt and surf work, he truly gets into the surfer mindset romanticized in pop culture, portraying Bodhi as having this calm clarity in his speech and mannerisms. You never see him as the villain, nor as a misguided adventurer. Keanu Reeves, on the other hand, is terrible as Johnny Utah. I loved him in “The Matrix” trilogy and “Speed”, but here he just can’t find the right tempo his character needs. Despite this, Reeves does have a saving grace in his on-screen chemistry with Swayze, so he isn’t entirely unbearable.

Perhaps “Point Break” is more of a period piece that a modern-audience member like me can never fully understand. I didn’t dislike the film, but, like “The Matrix Revolutions”, it made the mistake of assuming it was wiser than the audience.

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