In addition to reviews of newer films, I’d also like to do reviews of older movies that I’m now catching up on because I never saw them growing up. Some of these are classic films such as Citizen Kane, others are cult classics that I simply hadn’t heard of until I got more into cinema, and the remainder are films that were recommended to me by either friends, websites, or “best of” lists online. I thought that I would start this series of “retro reviews” by summing up my thoughts on Point Break, one of the films that put Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow on the map.
Point Break stars Keanu Reeves as Johnny Utah, a former college football star who is now working with the FBI on the coast of California. The nearby area has experienced a set of bank robberies performed by a gang called the Ex-Presidents, who wear masks of several different Commanders-in-chief to protect their identities. After getting a lead from his partner Agent Pappas (played by Gary Busey) that the Ex-Presidents might be surfers, Utah buys himself a board and hits the waves in an attempt to learn more about the local wave riders. Johnny soon befriends another surfer named Bodhi, played by Patrick Swayze, along with his group of friends. The situation becomes more difficult, however, when Johnny realizes that the very friends that he has made might be the same people who he hit the waves to find in the first place.
Point Break is, first and foremost, an action film, and in that realm, it succeeds in spades. From the Ex-Presidents’ first robbery to the nail-biting final segment, Point Break is a great thrill ride. The violence feels real, the danger is intense, and we see all the trappings of a great action film. This movie of course had lots of surfing scenes, as well, which I was also very impressed by. There are several films that I’ve seen that have made me wish that I grew up in California, and this was definitely one of them. The action and surfing went right along with the plot and never felt superfluous, even during the more self-indulgently violent sections.
I also have to point out that most of the acting in this film is great. Patrick Swayze does a great job as the Eastern philosophy-reciting Bodhi, and looks the part of surfer with his shaggy hair and stubbly beard. I was also impressed with Lori Petty, who plays Utah’s surfing instructor and love interest, Tyler. Busey, as always, was very entertaining to watch onscreen, and as crazy as he has ever been. I’m sure that while casting this movie, the filmmakers were looking for a performer who could act crazy, but then just said, “Wait, why don’t we just sign on Gary Busey?”
You can see above that I said that I enjoyed most of the acting in the film, and that’s because I wasn’t very impressed by, you guessed it, Keanu Reeves. In recent years, it seems as if Reeves and Nicolas Cage are in stiff competition for being the internet’s most hated actor, but the difference between the two, in my opinion, is that Cage actually has some great performances under his belt to counteract all of the bad ones. Reeves doesn’t have that same kind of tenure. Every single line that Reeves delivers is said with the exact same blank facial expression, regardless of his manner of voice. Even when he’s yelling at someone, his face doesn’t look angry at all. I don’t think that he ever smiles, either, even when he’s with Petty’s character. He just has that blank, dumbfounded expression that he has in every single role that he’s ever done (save Bill and Ted). I would be able to let this go if he wasn’t onscreen much, but unfortunately, he is the main character, and we have to see him throughout the entire film.
Besides that, the only other thing that set the movie back a bit was the fact that it didn’t feel quite as good as action films such as Die Hard or the Bourne trilogy. Bigelow’s direction was great for the most part, but there were several scenes that felt like they could have been done a bit better. The action and surfing scenes, however, were almost perfect, and overall, I’d say that Point Break was an enjoyable time, and a great choice for any guy’s night.