Set in Southern California in the early 1990's, Point Break follows the story of Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves), a rookie FBI agent fresh out of Quantico, assigned to investigate a series of bank robberies. Suspecting the masked perpetrators (known as the Dead Presidents) to be a tight-knit group of surfers, Utah goes undercover, learns to ride waves, and immerses himself in the local surf culture in an attempt to ferret out the Presidents and bring them to justice.
Reeves' Utah stumbles through the film armed with a badge, a pistol, and an arsenal of semi-hoarse, monotone one-liners. Keep in mind that this was between Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey and The Matrix, so chalk up the one-dimensional portrayal to Keanu still cutting his teeth as a serious actor. Patrick Swayze fills what is arguably the movie's most memorable role as Bodhi, the soulful adrenaline junkie. Other notable performances include Gary Busey as Angelo Pappas, the reluctant veteran FBI agent assigned to babysit Utah, and Lori Petty as Tyler, Johnny's free-spirited foil/love interest. John McGinley also shines as Ben Harp, the straight-edge head of the FBI's Robbery Division.
A modern cult classic, Point Break is a movie that most people either love or hate. Belonging to the former camp myself, I can't really fault the haters. The dialogue generally falls flat and is, at times, laughable. In the pantheon of American cinema, Point Break doesn't bring much to the table. But somewhere under the caricatures and the silliness beats the heart of an honest, gritty cop movie. All the elements are there, including the ubiquitous car chase, which still looks good after 20 years. This is followed by an even better foot chase, which (not to be outdone) is punctuated by the use of a pit bull as a projectile weapon. To top it off, you've got loads of excellent surfing, fighting, and partying. Who knew working for the FBI in the 90's was this radical? Between Fox Mulder and Johnny Utah, why boys of the day would choose any other career path is a mystery to me. But I digress.
Point Break is more than a cop movie. It's a movie about living life on the edge, and perhaps more importantly, it's about making the right choices; even if it's the hardest damned thing to do. When he takes on the Dead Presidents, Johnny paddles out into waves that are way over his head; when it turns ugly, he rides it all the way in. Like a man.