'Point Break' catches a wave or two but mostly just treads water

On movies

July 12, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

''Point Break'' has its areas of excitement, but on too many occasions the movie just lies there -- even when it does, however, the film still manages to look and sound good.

The film was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, whose last film, ''Blue Steel,'' was a silly mixture of reason and outrage. ''Point Break'' plays better than that, though there are a few times when you may wonder who wrote the script. There are also times when you may ask where the FBI agents in the film were trained.

The new film stars Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. Reeves is a young FBI agent who poses as a neo-surfer to become part of a gang of surfers who may be doubling as bank robbers. When the gang is making money -- with the use of guns -- members of the group wear masks of presidents Nixon, Carter, Johnson and Reagan. This persuades the police and the press to refer to them as ''The Ex-Presidents.''

The robberies are fast, and so is much of the film. A foot chase between the FBI man and lead hold-up man is one of the most exciting (and novel) ever done on the screen, and elsewhere, the movie contains magnificent surfing and sky-diving footage.

The sound score is also a plus. When the film seems to be going nowhere and the plot begins to thin, the sound and the photography almost make us forget that the action has come to a virtual halt.

When ''Point Break'' does intensify and pick up speed, it moves so fast and with such force that it's almost difficult to accept that it was directed by a woman: This is a very macho movie, and if the better film schools are looking for a contemporary film that very keenly exemplifies the marriage of sound and shoot, this is it.

Swayze, as the leader of the surfer gang, has blond hair, which you may say, goes with the role, but then he seems to have made it his permanent shade.

He does very well with the role, that of a young man who is deeply into '60s philosophy. At times, he sounds spacey. He also looks very sandy and burned, but if there is a lead role here, it belongs to Reeves, who very ably handles the laugh lines that have been sent his way.

The executive producer of ''Point Break'' is James Cameron, who directed ''Aliens'' and ''Terminator'' and ''Terminator 2.'' He is married to Bigelow. He may have given her a few pointers or two, but the new film is too much like Bigelow's ''Blue Steel'' and ''Near Dark,'' her second film as a director.

''Near Dark'' was a contemporary vampire movie that was rich in sound and photography. It never moved as fast at ''Point Break,'' but ''Blue Steel'' did, so the new film, it would seem, is all Bigelow.

Gary Busey and Lori Petty are also in the cast. He is an older member of the FBI, and she is the waitress the younger FBI man uses. As he tries to close in on the bank robbers, he falls in love with her.

The movie, filmed on locations in California and Hawaii, opens here today. There are times when it plays like one long video.

''Point Break''

** A young FBI agent poses as a neo-surfer to infiltrate a gang of bank robbers.

CAST: Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, Gary Busey, Lori Petty

DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow

RATING: R (language, violence)

RUNNING TIME: Two hours

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