As film fans, there’s always a handful of films that we allow to pass us by. This isn’t usually a comment on their quality or our willingness to enjoy them – sometimes, we’re just a little late to the party.
Despite it being consistently culturally relevant (and referenced repeatedly across film and TV), Point Break had somehow evaded me. Finally watching it was an odd experience, and one that I could not have ever fully prepared for.
Straight out of the gate, Keanu Reeves is somehow both perfectly cast and entirely out of place as the excellently (or ridiculously) named Johnny Utah. Point Break‘s absolutely ludicrous plot sees him infiltrate a gang of surfers that he (correctly) believes may be responsible for a spate of bank robberies under the name “the Ex Presidents”. However, the totally tubular lure of the waves and the charisma of Patrick Swayze’s Bodhi sees Johnny Utah get himself in far deeper with the gang than he ever intended.
It’s a story that thoroughly belongs in an early ’90s crime thriller. Had its cast consisted of lesser actors, Point Break would simply be another forgotten action flick, but Reeves and Swayze (and co-stars Lori Petty, Gary Busey, and John C. McGinley) elevate the utterly unbelievable plot far beyond what it should have been.
Although Point Break is entirely populated by a mixture of clichés and developments that defy all logical reason, it’s as hypnotic as the waves that captured Johnny Utah’s heart. Its action is well-realized, but the larger-than-life nature of its characters and story makes Point Break feel as much like a fairy tale as it does a crime film.
Viewed through a modern lens, Point Break is a beautiful nostalgia piece. It’s not as sleek and fast-paced as modern action movies, but it carries the same quiet charm that made Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze stars. It may be thoroughly ridiculous, but its also thoroughly unforgettable, and that’s ultimately why it lives up to its stellar reputation.
Summary: What Point Break lacks in plausibility, it makes up for in inexplicable charm. It’s engaging and somehow makes sense even when its story is held together by clichés and deeply flawed logic.
Highlights: In almost every scene, Johnny Utah is addressed by his full name (or, for bonus points, “Special Agent Johnny Utah”, and its at once laughable and an absolute thing of beauty.