'Point Break': THR's 1991 Review

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Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves in 1991's 'Point Break.'
Delivers the thrills, spills and crunches its action-hungry audience demands.

On July 12, 1991, 20th Century Fox unveiled the Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves actioner Point Break, which would go on to become a cult hit. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below: 

It is 100 percent pure adrenaline — what the ads don't tell you is that generic baloney is one of the major building blocks of this kind of rush stuff. While the critics may yammer, Point Break delivers the thrills, spills and crunches its action-hungry audience demands.

Likely to ride a decent if not deep summer box office wave, it's the kind of high-concepter that will perform better than its box office numbers indicate: the film's most appreciative aficionados, in addition to smuggling a case of brew into the drive-in, may stash their van full of freeloading friends.

Break will probably ride its highest crest in the Far East, where its Zenny-macho undercurrents will satisfy an audience that tends to admire familiar structures and stereotypes rather than deride them.

Starring Keanu Reeves as a hotshot Buckeye QB named Johnny Utah come West to team up with a pooped-out cop called Pappas (Gary Busey) to foil big-time bank robbers, Point Break is Kurosawa-Siegel-Eastwood and Grace Slick all rolled into one shiny surf ball. Namely, them there robbers, Pappas perceives, are likely surfers, seasonal bandits who follow the waves — you get the story drift.

So lickety split, it's Johnny-on-the-spot to the beach, where the young landlubber goes undercover, learns to surf from a scruffy surfer girl (Lori Petty) and, just as meaningfully, spirit bonds with the craziest rider on the waves (Patrick Swayze). (AFMA members take note: this opus would similarly shine if transported from the surfer world to the stripper world.)

Without detailing the sturm and drang of W. Peter Iliff's screenplay, suffice it to say, one could dig up one of John Milius' undiscovered early works and pump it full of steroids and get an approximation of this deep-surf serving of philosophical seaweed. 

But in all fairness, this swill's swells are in the action: car chases, foot chases, wipeouts, shootouts, brawls and falls — and they're terrific. Director Kathryn Bigelow pumps up the action to, indeed, full adrenal dimension.

While Point Break will not likely dispel the current popular myth that men are not by nature sensitive, thoughtful and monogamous, the players bring a gonzo-perfect swagger to their roles. Swayze is 100 percent testosterone as the Nietzsche-styled beachhead, while Reeves taps into an equally crazy level of killer determination. Busey, with his furry growl, is perfect as a burned-out cop come alive, while John McGinley is terrific as Busey's swine-ish superior.

Technical contributions break sharpest with editor Howard Smith's fearless cuts and with cinematographer Donald Peterman's full-bore lensing. A can of board wax to real-life surfers Dino Andino and Matt Archbold, in particular, for their animal-style rides. — Duane Byrge, originally published on July 12, 1991.