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Point Break (1991)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/1/2008

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/1/2008

Every generation has those movies which are remembered by many because of their quality, or because they've become touchstones for people in that age group. The Godfather, Jaws, E.T., Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Matrix -- these are films that many people saw, remember, and love. Then, there are the movies at the other end of the spectrum. These movies are nearly infamous, and "cult classic" doesn't begin to describe them. They are the movies that everyone's seen and everyone remembers, but they don't really know why. Point Break may be the epitome of this sub-genre.

Fresh from the FBI academy, Agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) reports for duty in Los Angeles, as we are told that L.A. is the bank robbery capital of America. A gang known as "The Ex-Presidents" -- as they wear masks depicting Reagan, Carter, Nixon, and LBJ -- have conducted a series of precision robberies, and the authorities have no leads. Johnny is partnered with veteran agent Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey), who is convinced that the robbers are surfers (based on soil samples found at the crime scenes). So, Johnny goes undercover as a surfer in order to learn who the robbers could be. He soon meets Tyler (Lori Petty), who teaches him to surf. She introduces him to Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) and his gang of surfers. Bodhi lives only to surf and participate in any other activity which produces an adrenaline rush. At first, Johnny suspects a gang of thug-like surfers to be the bank thieves, but as he observes the synchronicity between Bodhi and his buds, he soon theorizes that this group could be the bad guys. But, now that he and Bodhi are friends, how can he bring them down?

As I typed that synopsis for Point Break, I couldn't help but feel that I was making up the story. The film's plot is a mixture of plausible ideas that when thrown together became preposterous. The idea of surfers who live off of bank robberies isn't necessarily a bad one, and the thought that an FBI agent would go undercover to catch that gang makes sense. But, from there, the story continues to add on one unnecessary sub-plot after another, until the audience is overwhelmed. We get Johnny's relationship with Tyler, his relationship with Bodhi, his relationship with Angelo, etc. Point Break is often remembered as being a brain-dead film but in actuality it throws far too much story at the viewer. However, this story isn't backed up with any character development. I would say that the characters are two-dimensional, but that would be one dimension two many.

While this muddled script is occurring, Director Kathryn Bigelow makes Point Break a celebration of macho guys doing macho stuff in an oddly homoerotic movie. The ad-line for Point Break was "100% Pure Adrenaline" and the filmmakers attempt to meet this goal by presenting, along with oodles of surfing, football and skydiving. This is meant to show that Bodhi and his buddies will do anything for a thrill. But, for the audience, it means scene after scene of beautifully shot, but woefully benign scenes of male-bonding. Oddly, this male-bonding leads to an odd undertone of affection between Johnny and Bodhi.

This isn't to imply that all of Point Break is mundane. Bigelow is a gifted visual director and the foot-chase which is the center-piece of the film deserves to be seen. She makes use of the Steadicam in many unique ways, and the foot-chase, which could easily be quite boring, really comes to life. In fact, when looking back on this movie, that's usually the only scene which I can remember.

Ultimately, the convoluted story and the mixture of action take a backseat to the film's stars. Today, people recall Point Break due to the presence of Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. While Swayze had already done action in Red Dawn and Roadhouse, this was Reeves first foree into the genre. While the film is first and foremost an action film, this pairing was clearly meant to get the ladies into the theater. (And the fact that the only woman in the film is incredibly unattractive supports that theory.) Love or hate Point Break, it's mixture of testosterone and...well, testosterone makes it a shining example of what the early 90s were all about.

Point Break catches a gnarly wave on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 34 Mbps. Having seen Bigelow's other films, there's no doubt that the grainy look of Point Break was intentional, but the HD transfer really accentuates that grain, and this results in some shimmering effects at times. The film's somewhat muted (grays and blues) color palette looks fine here, and the daytime scenes have a nice clarity, outside of the grain. The nighttime scenes are similarly good, although a few are a bit too dark. I noted no defects from the source material here. The Disc holds a DTS HD Master Lossless audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.4 Mbps. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The sounds of the crashing waves is the star here, as the ocean provides some great stereo, surround, and bass effects. The sound is also very good during the action scenes, especially the skydiving scene. The speaker separation isn't always great, but the power of the surround sound more than makes up for it.

The Point Break Blu-ray Disc contains a handful of extras. The Disc contains eight DELETED SCENES which run about 5 minutes. (They actually cut something out of this movie?) All of these scenes are brief and most are simply lost moments from scenes in the movie. "It's Make or Break" (23 minutes) is a making-of featurette which has modern interviews with Swayze, Busey, Petty, & other cast members, and the writers and producers, as well as archive comments from Reeves and Bigelow. The piece explores the script's development, the cast, Bigelow's work, the foot chase, and the stunts. "Ride the Wave" (6 minutes) is a discussion of surfing and its importance to the film. "Adrenaline Junkies" (6 minutes) explores the various action scenes in the film and how the filmmakers tried to make the movie as action-packed as possible. "On Location: Malibu" (9 minutes) has actors BoJesse Christopher and John Philbin touring one of the beaches used in the film. The Disc contains three trailers for Point Break. The final extra is a PHOTO GALLERY.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long