Keanu Reeves' performance enters "so bad it's good" territory. Some of his lines are absolutely tortured. When he explains to Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) "I am an F. B. I. agent!" it's almost like he's pronouncing the periods in the acronym. I laughed out loud at "Fuck, why can't I ever say what I really mean." Emotions are not his strong suit. The dialog isn’t great to begin with, and the general “California surf culture tone” of the movie combined with Reeves’ acting makes it hard to take the movie seriously at times.
Bank robberies and foot chases are always fun, so Point Break has some enjoyable action sequences. The aforementioned Bodhi leads a crew - Roach (James LeGros), Grommet (Bojesse Christopher), and Nathaniel (John Philbin) - on a series of successful bank robberies. They come in loud and fast wearing masks of ex-presidents (LBJ, Nixon, Carter, and Reagan), get out in under two minutes, and never use their weapons. FBI Agent Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey) rightly theorizes the "Ex-Presidents" crew is a group of surfers, robbing banks as the follow the best waves across the globe. Unrealistic as it may sound I liked the concept. Bank robbery movies have been done and done, so this felt like a genuine attempt to do something new.
An out of shape old timer, Pappas is considered somewhat of an eccentric joke at the field office. Busey, with his wild eyes and expressive face, sells this well and adds a bit of intensity to boot. His superior, agent Ben Harp (the always abrasive John C. McGinley), seems to relish sticking him with the inexperienced agent, Johnny Utah (Reeves). He describes the new guy as such:
You're a real blue flame special, aren't you, son? Young, dumb and full of come, I know.
Johnny Football Hero buys into Pappas’ theory though. The two hatch a plan to have Utah take up surfing hoping to stumble into a lead. The young agent nearly gets himself drowned. Surfer and future love interest Tyler Endicott (Lori Petty of A League of Their Own fame) drags him to shore on his first attempt. Later he's saved by Bodhi from a violent group of surfers (including Anthony Kiedis!). And just like that he accidentally infiltrates the group and stumbles on proof that they are in fact the "ghosts", as Pappas calls them, responsible for 28 robberies over the years. Soon after they confirm their suspicions Utah and Pappas catch the Ex-Presidents getting away from their last job of the summer. A pretty good car chase ensues followed by a damn good foot chase between Utah and Bodhi, ending in the famous scene where Utah refuses to shoot a masked Bodhi as he climbs a fence, instead firing his gun up in the air as he lets out a primal scream of frustration.
Bodhi is portrayed as some sort of Zen surfer, and the group is later portrayed as fighting against the conformity of "the system". However, I interpreted the surfing and the bank robbing and eventually the skydiving as the actions of thrill seekers increasingly looking more like macho young men with a death wish. It’s possible that was the intent of the portrayal - to show the inconsistencies of the crew’s beliefs versus their actions - but Bodhi’s final ill-fated scene makes him out to be a true believer in the power of nature, one who reveres the ocean. I didn't think it added up.