Young FBI agent Utah (Keanu Reeves) must track down a four-man bank robbery team who wear masks depicting the features of ex-US Presidents Reagan, Carter, Nixon and Johnson. Suspecting them to be surfers, the agent sets about infiltrating the surfing community, and becomes a little too close to the adrenalin junkies to be objective. With Patrick Swayze as the main suspect, and Gary Busey as Utah's more experienced partner.
A rash of daring bank robberies erupts, in which the bad guys all wear the masks of worse guys--former presidents (nice touch). Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves), an impossibly named former football star who blew out his knee and became a crime-busting fed instead, figures out that none of the heists occur during surfing season, and all of them occur when, so to speak, surf's down. So obviously, he reasons, we're dealing with some surfer-dude bank robbers. He goes undercover with just such a group, led by a very spiritual, very guru-type guy played by Patrick Swayze, who has some muddled philosophies when it comes to materialism. If you can buy all that, this efficiently directed (by Kathryn Bigelow) action flick has some diverting moments (credit it, for example, for anticipating the extreme-sports fad). But Reeves's intelligent-sounding lines don't make him seem remotely intelligent, and that plot makes him look positively brilliant. --David Kronke
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