Twenty-something years later (and despite what any naysayer may have you believe), Point Break is still an excellent action film. It’s knowingly silly, never taking itself too seriously and striking the balance between its emotional stakes and the nature of its outlandish premise. It captures the fun, outlaw spirit of a group of social pariahs-cum-surfers-cum-bandits in a way that makes the film a novelty, but never a mockery. Dawn Patrol—Point Break’s spiritual successor—takes all the fun of a surfer-outlaw flick and ruins it. Dawn Patrol is to Point Break what getting a whole bloom of jellyfish stuck inside your wet suit is to an enjoyable surfing experience.
Dawn Patrol (directed by Daniel Petrie Jr, writer of 80s classic Beverly Hills Cop) is a mess from the word go. John (Scott Eastwood, the impossibly handsome son of Hollywood stalwart Clint Eastwood) is the eldest son in a family of surfers (strap it down, it gets dumber). His mother (Rita Wilson, trying her goddamn best) and father (Jeff Fahey, trying something) are admirable burnouts who are barely keeping their heads above water. John’s younger brother Ben (Chris Brochu, for whom surf-movies are an old-hat as he appeared in the 2011 film Soul Surfer) is the family’s only hope, a surfing prodigy who is on the verge of superstardom and riches. But Ben winds up dead and John goes out for revenge; throw in endless stock-footage of surfers, pointless slow motion sequences and a dose of anti-Mexican sentiment that would make Donald Trump recoil, and you’ve got Dawn Patrol.
The abysmal performances by a group of talented actors are the first indicator that something shoddy is afoot in Dawn Patrol. Scott Eastwood has proved serviceable in his brief career, Jeff Fahey should be a shoe-in for a feeble drunkard and Rita Wilson is Rita FREAKING Wilson, as beautiful and charming as she is talented. Yet somehow, none of these actors are able to recreate the mechanics of a three-dimensional human; the dialogue lays flat and their characters are as realized on film as they would be at the initial table read.
But the blame can’t be placed at the actors’ feet, for Dawn Patrol’s script truly is atrocious. The entire endeavor is couched in a horribly clunky framing device wherein Eastwood’s John is forced by a masked woman to march through an empty desert landscape at gunpoint. While this interminable march plods on, John recounts the story of his brother Ben and thus introduces the audience to the film’s plot and sends them down the rabbit hole and towards an anti-Wonderland of goofy action cliches. And if the framing device is clunky and arduous, the script’s pacing is insufferable. The inciting incident doesn’t come until a third of the movie’s runtime has unmercifully dripped from the clock and the remainder of the film is a joyless spiral of despair towards a revelation that is so obvious it could be sussed out even if you were watching on an iPhone screen placed at the opposite end of a busy airport terminal.
And it’s not enough for Dawn Patrol to simply be bad, it also proselytizes about the ills of society through a maze of mixed metaphors and haphazardly constructed cultural allusions. Post-traumatic stress disorder, racism, revenge, misogyny, class inequality, family. The list of themes that are introduced and subsequently unexplored in Dawn Patrol is endless. The film has thoughts on society and culture, but the script is too disjointed and rigid to explore anything more morally substantive than the pros and cons of drinking beer on a public beach.
Vaya con dios, Dawn Patrol.
Craig is a writer living in north Florida with his wife and ornery dog. He writes about film and TV. He creates and publishes comic books under the label Gentleman Baby Comics. He's currently wishing his bio sounded more engaging.