Review of Point Break (1991)

Point Break (1991) is an action crime thriller directed by Kathryn Bigelow. The movie stars Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, and Gary Busey.

Here’s the premise: An FBI Agent goes undercover to catch a gang of surfers who may be bank robbers.

This was my first time watching Point Break. It’s a fast-pace film that highlights the work of agents investigating takeover bank robberies. It brought back memories of my first bank robbery case.

I watched the movie to find teachable moments about FBI policies and procedures. Point Break provides an opportunity to talk about the FBI’s jurisdiction regarding bank robbery violations and discuss Operation Plans, also known as Ops Orders.

Since most banks and credit unions are federally insured, it’s a federal offense to rob one. Some FBI field offices respond to all bank robberies in their territory, but many primarily work with their local police departments on serial or violent cases. Learn more about the FBI’s role in bank robbery investigations here.

Ops orders are required before an arrest or search is executed. I always get nostalgic when watching scenes in shows where agents gather in a parking lot near the home of their target just before a raid at a staging site to go over last-minute instructions.

There is nothing like that feeling of anticipation and the buzz of adrenaline when you have on your FBI emblazoned raid jacket over your protective vest, weapon with extra ammo, and a game plan to execute. You don’t know how much I miss that.

In Point Break, we see exactly why a tactical game plan is needed and what can happen when there is no ops order. Five agents show up to arrest four heavily armed men and two women. Things do not go well. One subject is killed, and another wounded. Then an undercover DEA agent arrives to inform the FBI case agent that he not only targeted the wrong gang, but has disrupted a DEA drug operation. Oops.

Although, in all likelihood, there are law enforcement representatives on every FBI field office’s Bank Robbery/Violent Crime Task Force who will notify their command of upcoming activity, the operations plan also requires that the case agent consult one of the nationally recognized event deconfliction systems. No one wants members of their arrest team to be harmed by friendly fire.

Deconfliction is the process of determining when law enforcement personnel, local, state, or federal, are conducting an event in close proximity to one another at the same time. Events include law enforcement actions, such as raids, undercover operations, surveillances, and executing search warrants.

That’s why, for the safety of all involved, including the subjects, an outline with clear instructions of law enforcement notifications, the role of each participant, the number of targets, known weapons, and the nearest hospitals are vital to the success of the mission.

Listen to the following FBI Retired Case File Review episodes to learn more about how the FBI investigates bank robbery cases:

Episode 229: Walter Lamar and Stephen Chenoweth – Sleepover Bank Robbers, Part 1

Episode 230: Walter Lamar and Stephen Chenoweth – Sleepover Bank Robbers, Part 2

Episode 227: Patrick Dugan – Serial Bank Robber, America’s Most Wanted

Point Break is streaming on Prime Video. Watch the trailer here.

Jerri Williams

View posts by Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, jokes that she writes about the FBI to relive her glory days. After 26 years with the Bureau specializing in major economic fraud and corruption investigations, she calls on her professional encounters with scams and schemers to write police procedurals inspired by true crime FBI cases in her Philadelphia FBI Corruption Squad crime fiction series featuring flawed female FBI agent Kari Wheeler. Jerri’s FBI for Armchair Detectives nonfiction series enables readers to discover who the FBI is and what the FBI does by debunking misconceptions about the FBI in books, TV, and movies. Her books are available as ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks wherever books are sold. She’s also the host of FBI Retired Case File Review, a true crime podcast with more than 300 episodes available on all popular podcast apps and YouTube.

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