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Film / Point Break (1991)

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"You trying to tell me the FBI's going to pay me to learn to surf?"
Johnny Utah

Point Break is a 1991 action film directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starring Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze and Gary Busey. The title refers to the surfing term point break.

In this action/crime-drama, Reeves stars as Johnny Utah, an FBI agent whose background consists of having served as a quarterback for Ohio State. Johnny and his partner, Angelo Pappas (Busey), are assigned to investigate a string of bank robberies in the Los Angeles area being committed by a gang nicknamed the "Ex-Presidents", due to their use of masks of former U.S. Presidents during said robberies. Their investigation leads them to a group of surfers led by Bodhi (Swayze), an adrenaline junkie who would do anything for a cheap thrill... perhaps even rob banks.

Johnny falls fast for Bodhi's ex-girlfriend Tyler (Lori Petty), who he convinces to teach him how to surf. Johnny begins to suspect Bodhi of involvement with the robberies performed by the Ex-Presidents, but at the same time becomes addicted to his adrenaline-charged, thrill-seeking lifestyle. In the end he is so immersed in the extreme sports that he has a difficult choice to make: friends or duty?

The film was a box office success upon its release, and it has since gathered a cult following. The film also contains notable celebrity cameos including Red Hot Chili Peppers front man Anthony Kiedis. There is a stage adaptation, Point Break LIVE!, in which the role of Johnny Utah is cast from the audience moments before the show starts in order to maintain the "authenticity" of the role.

A remake was released in 2015, which stars Luke Bracey as Johnny Utah and Édgar Ramírez as Bodhi.

This Movie Contains Examples Of:

  • Acoustic License: Bohdi and Johnny Utah have a conversation in freefall.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Johnny reports to Angelo on Bodhi's movements that day. He comments on how he ate lunch at Patrick's Roadhouse, which is an actual restaurant in LA. It might also be construed as a reference to Patrick Swayze's movie Road House (1989).
    • Gary Busey previously played a LA-based federal agent in Predator 2 the year prior.
    • Tom Sizemore would go on to play a Los Angeles police officer in True Romance two years later.
  • Affably Evil: Bodhi in spades.
  • Agony of the Feet: One of the drug-dealing surfers literally shoots himself in the foot when Pappas slams a door on him.
  • Always Save the Girl: Invoked. Bodhi secures Johnny's help in making his getaway by showing him footage of his girlfriend in the custody of a Psycho for Hire.
  • Anti-Villain: Many people see Bodhi as this.
  • Artistic License – Geography: A wave headed towards Bells Beach, Victoria from Antarctica would have to swamp Tasmania in order to maintain its trajectory.
  • Artistic License – Law Enforcement: Johnny and Pappas' boss ignores their very logical conclusions based on what little evidence they have (considering they have nowhere else to look, why not look there?). Not only that, most directors in his position would be overjoyed to have agents who not only keep up their normal caseload, but work another case on their own time. The biggest offender, however, is Johnny using his real name while going "undercover" on the beach. This would be dumb enough under normal circumstances, but Johnny is a former college football star who blew out his knee in a big game, and he was well-known enough that years later people still remember him. Even in the pre-internet era, all it would take is one big college football fan in the group following his life after the injury to know that the famous Johnny Utah became an FBI agent after he couldn't play any more, and the whole operation is blown.
  • Badass Bystander: The final heist was already going wrong but it was salvageable, but the moment it went into "bloodshed" territory was when one of the customers, an off-duty cop, pulled out his gun and opened fire.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The scene where Bodhi tells his gang he knows what to do about Johnny since finding out he's an FBI agent. The very scene is Johnny asleep with a gun aimed at him, implying Bodhi was going to kill him. It turned out to be Tyler also finding out he's FBI.
  • Battle in the Rain: The final fight between Johnny and Bodhi.
  • Becoming the Mask: Johnny Utah pretends to be an extreme sports enthusiast to try and find out who the Ex-Presidents are, but after learning how to surf and skydive he really does come to love extreme sports.
  • BFG: Bodhi's Freedom Arms Model 83 revolver, chambered in .454 Casull (a cartridge with almost TWICE the muzzle energy of a .44 Magnum).
  • Big "NO!": Shouted by Johnny Utah when he sees Pappas being shot in the back with a shotgun.
    • Also Bodhi when Johnny has him handcuffed on the beach at the end and realizes he can't make an easy escape.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Bodhi goes off to surf the "50 Year Storm", with his death all but guaranteed, and even if he does somehow manage to survive, the FBI is waiting for him at the beach. The film shows Bodhi being swallowed up by the waves, but never confirms his ultimate fate.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Pappas shoots one of the meth dealers in the head during the raid.
  • Bulletproof Vest: The Ex-Presidents wear them while robbing the banks. One saves Johnny's life when he takes two bullets to the chest, though he is still knocked off his feet and is shown in pain and gasping for air on the floor afterwards.
  • Byronic Hero: Both Johnny and Bodhi.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Johnny's knee injury. In an action movie, a character who was a former athlete until an injury derailed his career is nothing unusual. Nor here, as there's nothing seen that shows his leg ever affecting him... until he jumps down a concrete flood break and pops it badly, causing him to to lose Bodhi during their chase.
  • Da Chief: Supervising Agent Ben Harp. Every single scene he has with Utah and Pappas has him screaming at them for their supposed inefficiency even when Utah points out in a scene right after one chewing out that they are handing in their case quota and the surfing he's been doing with Bodhi's gang to infiltrate them has been done (up to that point) on his own free time, and Pappas pointing out at the moment of that specific chewing out that undercover operations are a thing that takes time. It becomes clear that he hates them just because he hates them even before shit really starts going bad for the two agents.
  • Chute Sabotage: Lampshaded as Johnny becomes suspicious, and the surfers swap their rigs with each other while in the jump plane.
  • Cluster F-Bomb
  • The Comically Serious: Meta-example. Part of the film's charm is that it plays such a ridiculous premise straight without a sense of irony or self-awareness.
  • Control Freak: Keanu Reeves described Johnny as a "total control freak, and the ocean beats him up and challenges him. After a while, everything becomes a game. He becomes as amoral as any criminal. He loses the difference between right and wrong."
  • Dark Action Girl: The girl in the shower at the drug dealer house who first kicks the shit out of Johnny and then repeatedly stabs a FBI agent before finally taken down, all while being naked.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Johnny proves himself quite adept at this.
    Harp: "I guess we must just have ourselves an asshole shortage, huh?" [winks sarcastically and walks away]
    Johnny: "Not so far."
  • Defiant to the End: Roach.
  • Description Cut: When Johnny expresses skepticism about being able to go undercover as a surfer, Angelo points out how he's an athlete and asks, "How hard could it be?" Cue the next scene where Johnny wipes out, and has to be rescued by Tyler.
  • Determinator: Johnny, who manages to successfully track Bodhi's whereabouts after his escape, chasing him through Mexico, South America, Sumatra, Fiji and finally Australia. Hell, the fact that he follows Bodhi out the door of a skydive plane, and without a parachute of his own, marks him as this.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: The drug-dealing surfer thugs whom Utah initially suspects of being the Ex-Presidents.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: In the scene where Utah arrives at his new posting, he pinches a donut in passing out of a box on one of his new colleague's desks.
  • Down L.A. Drain: Utah chases one of the "Ex-President" bank robbers on foot, ending with him injuring his knee after jumping into the viaduct and his quarry getting away.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Bodhi only had Rosie threatening Tyler because he deep down couldn’t possibly do it himself. He’s just as uncomfortable about the whole thing as Johnny and once is poised to escape, keeps his word and demands her freedom.
  • Fake Shemp: Patrick Swayze is not the one wearing the Reagan mask during the foot chase sequence. Instead, his stunt double, Scott Wilder, performed the scene because Swayze was in Europe doing press for Ghost (1990).
  • Fanservice: Uh, yeah. The film opens with Keanu Reeves soaked to the skin and wearing a tight fitting shirt while demonstrating his weapon prowess, and he has multiple shirtless scenes (one which includes a quick shot of his naked butt) throughout the rest of the film. There's also a number of scantily clad women, a woman taking a shower then kicking Johnny 's ass (without getting dressed) during a raid, plus the surfing scenes in general.
  • Firing in the Air a Lot: The scene where Utah empties his gun into the air instead of shooting Bodhi.
  • Flipping the Bird: Happens several times during the film.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: During the raid on the Surf Thugs' house, Johnny is attacked by a naked woman who had been taking a shower when the raid began.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: Utah's old football injury, which he aggravates during the foot chase with Bodhi, and continues to plague him at inconvenient moments throughout the rest of the film.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The Ex-Presidents' last bank robbery. Instead of just hitting the registers, Bodhi decides to go for the safe. This gives one of the hostages time to draw a gun and shoot Bodhi in the chest and Grommet in the throat. The hostage and a security guard are gunned down and Bodhi clubs Johnny in the head and leaves him for the police.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Johnny Utah.
  • Hand Cannon: Bodhi's main weapon is a Freedom Arms Model 83 revolver chambered in .454 Casull.
  • Hate at First Sight: Da Chief Harp hated Utah's guts the moment he set foot at his HQ and never overlooked an opportunity to chew him out before finally had him arrested for allegedly betraying the law after becoming The Scapegoat for the Ex-Presidents' last robbery.
  • Hate Sink: The Red Herring surfer drug dealers in their brief appearance and overall Harp act as this in order to make Bodhi and his crew sympathetic in comparison.
  • Hero Ball: Utah has it chained to his ankle the whole time.
  • Hero of Another Story: The deep cover DEA agent played by Tom Sizemore who has been shadowing the surfer drug dealers for some time before Pappas and Utah botched his operation with their own case.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Utah and Pappas are both absolutely hated by their FBI colleagues, mainly for their unconventional way of investigating, Utah being a New Meat rookie and Pappas being a has-been washout. After Utah is made The Scapegoat for the Ex-Presidents' last robbery that resulted in three causalities (including an off-duty cop), Agent Alvarez and Director Harp took great pleasure in apprehending Utah for his alleged treachery.
  • Hollywood Skydiving: Mythbusters found that you almost certainly can't hold a conversation while freefalling, but Utah could conceivably have caught up with a Bodhi by streamlining his body (though not necessarily at that altitude).
    • Most of the skydiving WAS real however, including all the shots of Swayze, an experienced skydiver who made 55 jumps for the film.
    • It is not a good idea to deliberately make a landing on water when solid earth is nearbynote .
    • The sequence at the end with Johnny jumping out to get to Bodhi goes on for about 90 seconds when it’d actually only take about 31 seconds for someone who jumped out of a plane at that altitude to hit the ground.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: What Roach says before Bodhi drops him off the plane bleeding to death and then leaves him for dead after he impacts to the ground.
    • And lampshaded by Utah, who reminds Bodhi that Roach feels cold because he's suffering severe blood loss and needs help.
  • It's Raining Men: Plenty of parachuting, with some hair-raising last-minute deployments. Not to mention one who doesn’t even have a parachute at one point.
  • Jerkass: Fellow Agents Alvarez and Babbitt and Deputy Director Harp, who collectively hate Utah's and Pappas' guts and spend every moment on screen being useless to the investigation themselves but doing everything they can to get in our heroes' way (even though, as pointed out, they're handling their normal caseload just fine, and the investigation is on their own time) and then mistreating them when said interference leads to lousy results.
  • Karma Houdini: Subverted with Bodhi. His final fate is ambiguous to a degree and Utah still let him go either way. The narrative treats it like a death scene though.
  • Kick the Dog: Inverted. During a chase scene, Bodhi throws a dog at Johnny to slow him down. Johnny gives the dog a hard enough kick to send it flying away from him.
  • Killed Offscreen: In the epilogue, set nine months after the rest of the film, it is revealed that Rosie died in a completely unconnected knife fight in Mexico.
  • Large Ham: John C. McGinley as Supervising Agent Ben Harp.
  • Mooning: As the Ex-Presidents flee the bank they're robbing, the robber wearing the Nixon Mask yanks down his pants to show the words Thank You written on his behind. Ironically this provides the initial clue that the robbers are surfers, because this exposes his tan line to the CCTV cameras.
  • Ms. Fanservice: When Johnny meets her at Bodhi's house party, Tyler's wearing a ludicrously short minidress that's basically a just tight shirt barely pulled down over her butt, nicely showing off her well-toned stems.
  • Nixon Mask: This movie started the whole thing. Each of the Ex-Presidents wear the relevant mask and refer to each other by that as a codename. Nixon of course makes the Obligatory Joke: "I'm not a crook!"
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: Bodhi claims that he's robbing banks to wake people up to the mundanity of their lives and the broken system they're shackled to. But it's pretty obvious that he's lying to himself, and the real reasons he's robbing banks are a) the money, and b) the thrill.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • When Johnny realizes Bodhi is Reagan - and Bodhi realizes Johnny is an FBI agent.
    • Bodhi, when Johnny throws the Reagan mask at Bodhi's feet in Australia, saying Lost something, brah?.
  • Older Sidekick: Angelo Pappas, although Johnny is technically his junior partner.
  • One-Handed Shotgun Pump: Johnny Utah does one during the firing range sequence at the beginning of the film.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: The "Aussie" couldn't quite master the accent.
  • Police Are Useless: Even if you didn't know the plot going in, if you were to listen to Angelo's theory it makes perfect sense and is based on the only hard evidence they have. But his supervisors and the other agents completely dismiss his theory based solely on not believing that surfers could actually do that.
  • Psycho for Hire: Rosie.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "I am an Eff! Bee! Eeye! Agent!!"
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Bodhi's entire scheme to rob a bank's vault and force Johnny to assist him backfires spectacularly when nearly his entire crew ends up getting killed in the process. As Bodhi makes his escape with the money, he remarks that both he and Johnny lose.
  • Red Herring: The movie gives us a thuggish crew of surfers who Johnny initially suspects may be the Ex-Presidents. Bodhi saves him from getting beat up by them. When they bust them, it turns out that they were actually drug dealers, not thieves (and the deep cover DEA agent who was with them is pissed that the FBI ruined his operation). Of course, it's later revealed that Bodhi and his crew are the actual Ex-Presidents.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Bodhi's red to Johnny's blue.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Pappas's theory that the Ex-Presidents are surfers is so outlandish that everyone thinks it can’t possibly be true (even though the theory is based on what hard evidence they do have).
  • Rescue Romance: Averted; though Johnny and Tyler do Meet Cute when she rescues him from drowning during his first attempt at surfing, she dislikes him at first because of how inept he is, and he's just using her to gain credibility for his undercover identity. It's only later that they fall in love.
  • Revolvers are Just Better: Bodhi uses a Freedom Arms Model 83 revolver when robbing the bank and uses it on an off-duty cop by shooting him point blank in the heart. Johnny grabs the same gun in the plane to go after Bodhi too.
  • The Rival: Babbit and Alvarez are this for Utah and Pappas, wanting to compete for being the best FBI pair than the latter.
  • Right Behind Me: In the scene where Utah and Pappas first meet, Utah arrives just as Pappas is complaining about the new partner he's been assigned. He plays along and commiserates a bit before introducing himself.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: The film inspired a piece of cult theater, Point Break Live!, in which the role of Johnny Utah is played by an audience member chosen by popular acclamation after a brief audition. The new "Keanu" reads all of his (or her) lines from cue cards for the duration of the show, "to capture the rawness of a Keanu Reeves performance, even from those who generally think themselves incapable of acting."
  • Shoot the Hostage Taker: During the raid on the drug dealers' house, one of the gang takes a girl hostage. Pappas just shoots him in the head.
  • Shout-Out: At the end, a disillusioned law enforcement officer lets the bad guy die and then throws his badge into a body of water, a la Dirty Harry.
  • Suicide by Sea: Bodhi paddles out to sea on his surfboard one last time to catch a once-in-a-lifetime wave. The area is surrounded by police and he will be arrested when he gets back to shore. It is fairly clear to the audience that he does not intend to come back.
  • Suspicious Spending: Averted. Given the effort they're going to with their investigation, you'd think Angelo and Johnny would wonder how a group of adrenaline junkies are living such a lavish lifestyle with no apparent source of income.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Utah and Bodhi.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: A ninety-second shouting match in free-fall? That's unpossible!
  • This Is the Part Where...: When Johnny is confronted by a group of surfers (who turn out to be drug dealers), he asks them if this is the part where they tell him how he's intruding on their territory. They tell him it would be a waste of time, and they're just going to give him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown instead.
  • Those Two Guys: Babbit and Alvarez, the other two FBI agents who keep popping up throughout the film who both in a way acted as rivals to Utah and Pappas, whom they had nothing but disdain for.
  • Totally Radical: The film is more or less adored for its Narm Charm qualities.
  • Training Montage: Tyler teaching Johnny to surf.
  • Villain of Another Story: The Red Herring drug dealing surfers turned out to be this due to their own criminal operations outside of the Ex-President's own bank robberies, while being pursued by a Hero of Another Story DEA agent.
  • Walk and Talk: Utah's first scene at the FBI field office.
  • Was It Really Worth It?: Johnny to Roach, when the latter is bleeding to death in the airplane.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Bodhi. (Rosie would).