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All the Fanfare: "Point Break" Diary 1
As I’m digging deep into all things Point Break for the inaugural article on allthefanfare.com, I thought it might be fun to share some of the interesting and amusing things I’ve discovered. Some of this will make the final article, some of it won’t. But it occurs to me that some behind-the-scenes posts here on the newsletter can help fill-in the gaps between the main articles.
I’m going to be painfully honest with you: I’m a leap-before-I-look type of guy. I settled on the premise for All the Fanfare and just decided to go for it. A wiser person probably would’ve written at least one article before telling everyone about it. But instead, you got me. Congratulations.
Going into this process, I felt more than a little trepidation. Not so much the writing part. The “is this going to be interesting” part. The “will it be good and unique” part. The last thing I want to do is just recap Point Break—what’s the utility in that? What if I don’t actually have anything interesting to say?
These doubts plagued me as I fired up the movie and lasted all of about 5 minutes.
Shortly after Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) arrives at the L.A. FBI field office, we’re informed that L.A. is the bank robbery capital of the world. Gary Busey (aka Agent Angelo Pappas) tells Agent Utah that there were 1322 bank robberies in L.A. last year (which would’ve been 1990 or ‘91; I’m not 100% sure when the film takes place). Pappas says they nailed over 1000 crooks.
The scene is a bit of world-building, meant to establish the setting and ground us in the fiction. It also left me curious and I went off researching. (This curiosity was my clue that this project could actually work because it suggested there was an interesting angle to explore.) Turns out Pappas is mostly telling the truth. From an LA Times article from the 90s:
L.A. really was the Bank Robbery Capital of the World. The FBI field office even had “Bank Robbery Capital of the World” emblazoned on its fax cover sheets. Strange flex, no?
In 1992, as many as 28 Los Angeles banks were robbed in a single day.
At its height, the region logged 2,641 in a year; that's one for every 45 minutes of the banking day.
Just crazy numbers.
The real-life FBI wasn’t nearly as successful at collaring criminals as the movie version. Pappas said they solved over 1000, which would be about 76% of the robberies (based on the 1322 number he mentioned). In actuality, the number is way less. Only 59% of robberies were solved in 2006, and that's after the total number of yearly robberies had come down drastically.
The really funny thing about all this: The FBI in Point Break is freaking clueless! How these idiots managed to arrest 3/4 of the bank robbers is beyond me.
“If you want the ultimate, you’ve got to be willing to pay the ultimate price.” (No worries brah, this newsletter is free!)
A brief detour regarding my process: I’m still sorting out what the final product will look like. I’ve watched the film, pausing frequently to take notes and jot down observations; I took 18 pages of notes. Next up, I’ll re-watch with the director commentary. And then I may watch it one final time, we’ll see. I also have some behind-the-scenes stuff I want to delve into: interviews, making-of footage, etc. As I said before—exhaustive.
As I’m absorbing the material, I’m sorting things into buckets. These buckets will probably turn into sections in the final article. Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) and his quasi-mystical aura is a bucket. So is the “Legend of Johnny Utah”, aka his football background. I’ve always found the President masks the robbers use fascinating; that may be a bucket of some kind. The beach football scene may be a bucket, or it may be part of the Utah bucket. The fact-or-fiction bank robbery stuff I mentioned is definitely a bucket, though it may blend with other real-life inspirations (like the crazy fact that California beaches frequently close due to toxic waste and sewage spills).
To bring this all back to the theme of this post—the FBI’s ineptitude is a bucket. As just one example, here’s how they approach undercover work: Johnny Utah infiltrates the surfer gang using his own name. He lets Bodhi and the others know where he lives. He uses a walkie-talkie on the beach to talk to Pappas. He drives to the FBI field office with his giant pink surf board hanging out his car.
I could go on.
Utah is basically a dumb jock. But Agent Harp (John C. McGinley), who runs the LA field office and is Utah’s boss, is far worse. Harp thinks he’s smart but he’s just an upwardly mobile doofus.
Midway into the film, Johnny and Angelo lead a raid on a neo-Nazi gang’s hideout, which inadvertently blows 3 months of deep cover work by undercover DEA Agent Deets (a fun Tom Sizemore cameo). Agent Harp—again, Utah’s boss—signed off on the raid. He shows up during the aftermath to helpfully explain who Deets is. Now I don’t know FBI procedures, but it seems like if anyone is responsible for checking with the other agencies before green-lighting an operation, it’d be the guy running the office and giving the okay. But maybe I’m just crazy.
Harp takes no responsibility for any of it. Worse, he pins it all on Utah.
Deets: "How are these guys robbing Tarzana City National on August 2nd when they were in Fort fuckin' Lauderdale August 2nd?"
Harp: "It's not an easy thing to do, is it Utah?"
Anyway, that’s enough such nonsense for now. I’ll check-in again next week with some juicy behind-the-scenes gossip I uncover. I’m hoping to have the full article written by mid-March, but we’ll see!
As I dig into the movie and go down interesting rabbit holes, I’m getting more excited about what this could be. I think it could be something really cool. I hope you do too!
Did you dig this? Take it from Angelo and share this with two people, brah.