Point Break (1991) rating: Pure Adrenaline!

Let me just stress, I fucking love Point Break. I think it is a masterpiece in surfing/skydiving/bank robbery genre. From its gritty, highly realistic story, to its complex characters, nuanced acting and well-crafted dialogue, there is nothing it can’t do.

Just in case you missed it, it says "Pure Adrenaline Edition."

Just in case you missed it, it says “Pure Adrenaline Edition.” As opposed to the vaguely thrilling edition.

Keanu Reeves is Johnny Utah, a rookie FBI agent partnered with cranky old-timer Gary Busey. I love when people have states for last names. And grown men who choose to go by Johnny.

Did someone say Johnny Utah?

Did someone say Johnny Utah?

So, they’re hunting for a quartet of bank robbers, the ex-presidents, so called because of the masks they wear of ex-presidents. This group of bank robbers is very professional, and let me stress this, they only take the cash from the drawer and never hurt anybody. THEY STEAL SMALL AMOUNTS OF MONEY AND NO ONE GETS HURT.

Totally harmless.

Mostly harmless.

We all clear on that? So Gary Busey has a theory, which is much mocked within the bureau, that these robbers are surfers. One has a distinct tan line, one left a shoe print that contained sand and surfboard wax, and they are only active during the summer. So despite this being the only lead that anybody in the FBI has, Gary Busey is marginalized and outcast, until Keanu Reeves convinces him to keep investigating.

It's cool. You can trust me.

Maybe that’s not the only reason he’s marginalized and outcast.

This means that Keanu Reeves has to go deep undercover as a surfer, because surfers are like a tribe, with their own language, and they won’t accept you unless you’re one of them. As Gary says, “it’s either you or me out there on the board. Do you get my drift?” Yeah, that would be an entirely different film.

So it turns out that Keanu is a terrible surfer, but Tyler, an attractive lady surfer, (whose affections he worms his way into by pretending that his parents were killed in an accident after using his FBI database skills to discover that her parents were also killed in an accident) agrees to teach him some basics.

Oh wait, I got that backwards. He's a great surfer. He's a terrible actor.

Oh wait, I got that backwards. He’s a great surfer. He’s a terrible actor.

This proves to be enough to get him accepted into the surfing culture and befriended by Patrick Swayze, aka Bodhi, and his trio of sidekicks. Bodhi is a spiritual man, who feels connected to the ocean, and sees in Johnny a kindred spirit.

Yeah, kindred spirit. In a totally straight way.

Yeah, kindred spirit. In a totally straight way.

Hmmm…Patrick Swayze + three other guys = four awesome new friends! These awesome new friends defend him when he’s bullied by four nasty mean surfers, who are definitely up to something shady. We know for sure they are bullies and reckless drivers. Why not bank robbers too?


How can four guys this mean not be bank robbers?

In a staggering lack of communication between departments, Keanu and co. raid their house only to discover that the surfers were small time drug dealers currently under investigation to lead the DEA to their supplier. Not only did their raid ruin any chance of the DEA finding their supplier, but they are definitely not the bank robbers.

Do I look like I like this hair, man? Do I like wearing these clothes?

“Do I look like I like this hair, man? Do you think I like these clothes?” says the poor deep-cover DEA agent. I guess not everybody takes to their undercover life as well as Johnny Utah took to his.

“Oh shit!” as Keanu so aptly puts it. What the hell? Those guys were totally the meanest of all the quartets of surfers currently surfing on this one specific beach. It’s not like there’s another group of four surfers currently surfing on this one specific beach that it could be. Keanu begins to count on his fingers and realizes that of the ten surfers in L.A., two are him and his girlfriend, four were just arrested for dealing drugs, and that the other four are Patrick Swayze and his three friends. No. It can’t be. Not Bohdi, the zen-surf master, to whom he’s grown so close, who taught him to be one with the wave and experience the spiritual side of surfing.

No, not Bodhi

No, not Bodhi. Look at his hair. How could he fit it all under his Ronald Reagan mask?

So Keanu and Gary stakeout the bank, preparing to stop the robbery attempt that they feel is imminent. Gary, surprising absolutely no one, fucks up, forcing Keanu to attempt to stop the fleeing robbers. Wait. Why is Keanu even here? Remember how he’s undercover? I know he got a 100% on his marksmanship exam in the opening scene, but is he really so good that they can’t send literally any other FBI agent to this raid? You know what might blow his cover? Drawing a gun and yelling “FBI.”

Freeze, it's me, Johnny Utah, here to, surf, brah.

Freeze, it’s me, Johnny Utah, here to, surf, brah.

Showing monumentally poor judgement Keanu draws his gun and yells “FBI!” Richard Nixon goes to shoot him, but Ronald Reagan knocks his gun away, revealing Bodhi’s affection for Johnny. An excellent chase ensues. There’s something wonderful about seeing Patrick Swayze in a Ronald Reagan mask dousing a man in gasoline and lighting him on fire.

political commentary?

Political commentary, or collateral damage?

When Keanu finally has Ronald Reagan in his sights, he realizes that he has grown too close to Patrick Swayze to shoot him, and instead shoots his gun into the air and goes “ahhhhhh!” Showing even worse judgement he then goes back undercover, pretending that nothing has changed. Dude, they were the ones in the masks, not you. They know exactly who you are. Remember how you, wearing no mask over your real face, shouted, “FBI?” Yeah, so do they.

Pictured: Johnny Utah, with no mask

Pictured: Johnny Utah, actual face

So our four bank robbers show up at Johnny’s house in the middle of the night. He busted his knee during the chase and is hobbling around, and since he was caught unaware he doesn’t have his gun. Oh man, he’s totally vulnerable. So Bodhi and his gang grab Johnny and…take him skydiving. But then they give him a parachute…that works perfectly.

I totally though you were gonna kill me just now. Wee!

I totally though you were gonna kill me just now. Whee!

It turns out that Bodhi did realize that Johnny was an FBI agent, figuring this out sometime around the moment that Johnny pulled his gun and yelled, “FBI!” He kidnapped Tyler, Johnny’s girlfriend. (She was, by the way, furious with Johnny before she was kidnapped as a pawn in his legal struggles, having discovered that he is an FBI agent and that his parents are alive.) They threaten her to blackmail Johnny into robbing a bank with them. An off duty cop happens to be in the bank and he tries to stop the bank robbers, killing LBJ, wounding Nixon, and hitting Keanu right in the bulletproof vest, before getting killed by Bodhi. The robbers ultimately get away, leaving Keanu behind. Meanwhile, his boss arrests him for bank robbing.



Look at the cop that got killed, is that what you wanted? Wait? What? No. You know that’s not what he wanted. Seriously? You know he’s undercover. You put him there. Do you really think that being kidnapped by bank robbers and standing in a bank while they rob a bank is arrest worthy? I know he’s made a series of staggeringly bad choices to get to this moment, but poor decision making isn’t against the law. In fact, the entire film would fall apart without it.

Gary and Keanu, despite being under arrest, leave the scene of the crime (after Gary decks their boss) and pursue the fleeing robbers. Gary kills one and wounds one, before being killed himself. Noooo! We care deeply that Johnny’s partner and mentor was just killed! Nooooo!



Bodhi grabs Roach (his injured buddy,) and Johnny, and loads the three of them into his getaway plane. Apparently he’s still holding Tyler (girlfriend, remember her?) hostage, so Johnny has to do what he says. Roach parachutes to safety, although he ultimately doesn’t survive, and the money he was holding scatters in the wind across the desert, in a profound moment of irony, revealing to anybody who still wondered that it was never really about the money. Bodhi says in a totally straight, not homosexual way to Johnny, “I know you want me so bad it’s like acid in your mouth.” And then he jumps out of the plane, leaving Johnny behind without a chute, although weren’t there originally supposed to be four guys on this plane? Did they realize while rushing to load their ill-gotten gains that with those two dead guys those extra chutes were just dead weight and purposefully leave them behind?

I want you so bad it's like acid in my mouth.

I want you so bad it’s like acid in my mouth.

Johnny apparently does want Bodhi that badly, because he dives out of the plane after him. When he catches up to Bodhi they snuggle for a bit as they hit terminal velocity, and then cuddle a bit more once they hit the ground. “Jesus Christ,” Johnny pants, as he struggles to free himself from the parachute. “God damn you are one radical son of a bitch,” Bodhi gasps. As Bodhi walks away into the desert, he says, once again in a totally straight, not gay, single layer of meaning way, “Looks like this time you won’t be getting your man. This game we both lose.” Tyler is released, all apparently forgiven and forgotten, and Bodhi rides off into the sunset.

Epilogue: Johnny has tracked Bodhi to Australia, where the legendary “50 year storm” has stirred the ocean into a raging frenzy. The regular surfers are fleeing the beach in droves, the waves are just too intense for these mere thrill seekers to risk. Yet there is a lone figure standing, zen-like, staring out at the immensity of the Pacific Ocean. Could it be Bodhi? Yes, Johnny tells him, “I’ve been to every city in Mexico. […] Found a passport of yours in Sumatra. Missed you by about a week in Fiji. But I knew you wouldn’t miss the 50 year storm, Bodhi.”

Point Break movie image Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze

I can water-wrestle all day, man.

Wait, what? He’s been tracking him across the globe? The FBI can do that? More specifically, FBI agents who were arrested for bank robbery and accessory to murder? A half dozen people were killed in the heist/arrest that failed, and Bodhi escaped. Who put Keanu back into this case? “You know what,” said absolutely no one in the FBI, “let your hair grow long, become scruffy and unshaven in your singleminded, ruthless pursuit of Bodhi, who you were unable to shoot when you had the chance. I think sending you off alone on this case is a great idea. There’s no conflict of interest here, no past history to interfere with your police-work. Go get him, tiger.” Remember how these guys only stole small amounts of money and no one got hurt, at least until Keanu got involved? Yeah, clearly no one else does. So the boys wrestle a bit in the ocean, and then Johnny breaks out the handcuffs and cuffs them together.

Why now? we could have had so much fun earlier, when I wasn't a wanted fugitive and you weren't a surfer-hobo marginally associated with the FBI.

Why now? we could have had so much fun earlier, when I wasn’t a wanted fugitive and you weren’t a surfer-hobo marginally associated with the FBI.

Bodhi, realizing that he is caught, and knowing that he could never survive life in a cage, his spirit is just too free, pleads with Johnny to let him go surf. Johnny agrees, knowing that he will never return from waves that big, dying as he was meant to, in the bosom of the Pacific Ocean. The Australian authorities, when they arrive moments too late, are furious, “You let him go!” “No I didn’t,” Johnny responds. He watches as the waves swallow his friend, and then he walks off the beach.

Where he is no doubt promptly arrested for the colossal fuck-up of letting a murder suspect commit suicide by surfing, bank robbery, accessory to murder, fleeing the scene of a crime, fleeing the country, and impersonating a federal officer.


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