Blu-ray Review: Point Break
By Frankie Dees Jul 4, 2008, 15:28 GMT
Young FBI agent Johnny Utah (Reeves) goes undercover at the suggestion of his partner (Gary Busey) to learn if a group of wild surfers is actually a gang of bank robbers. He soon comes under the dangerous spell of the surfers\' charismatic leader, Bodhi (Swyaze), a mystical mastermind who\'ll do absolutely anything for a thrill - and expects his followers to do the same. ...more
Seventeen years after its theatrical debut, 'Point Break' is still chugging along as the go-to adrenaline-fueled action pic of the nineties - a mixture of guilty pleasure dialogue, spot-on casting and kinetic action sequences that still carry a punch years later.
To be sure, I'm not quite as in love with it as I was in 1991 when I was twelve. Having not seen the film for a good six or seven years, I was quite surprised to find that the films still holds up really well as a action pic - if not a reminder on how talented a young Keanu Reeves was...ahem.
While not really having the wit or verve of 'True Romance', my personal fav action pic of the nineties, the pic takes a borderline ridiculous idea - FBI agent infiltrates a bank-robbing surfer gang! - and gives it a velocity that never lets up thereby never allowing the viewer to digest how goofy some of the narrative is.
And major props to the casting of Patrick Swayze, whose philosophy-spouting ringleader of the surfer gang Bodhi is one of the better movie villains of the past twenty years. Yep, I said it - if the rest of the movie was as good as Patrick Swayze is in this film, the flick would be a bonafide action classic instead of just being a fun ride which is how the film stands now.
Coming off his commercial career high of 'Ghost', I gotta give Swayze a tip of the hat for choosing a risky follow up role. Had he followed 'Ghost' with more of a sure thing, something more appealing to the ladies, who knows? His career trajectory might have been more akin to Richard Gere who throws in a safe 'Runaway Bride' or 'Shall we Dance?' whenever his career starts to stagnate.
Casting Keanu Reeves was also pretty savvy despite his now infamous wooden rendition of special agent 'Johnny Utah.' Considering Reeves as an action star seems like a no-brainer now, but in 1991 it was definitely less than a sure thing.
Coming off of a small role in 'Parenthood' and his one claim to fame at that point, 'Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure' - could this goofball handle former quarterback turned FBI agent 'Johnny Utah'? Well, okay, not that big of a stretch considering the amount of 'Brah's' in the script but still...had director Kathryn Bigelow not taken a chance on Reeves, we certainly would not have gotten 'Speed' and 'The Matrix' films as they exist today.
I imagine most will know the story by now and for those whippersnappers out there that don't but have seen 'The Fast and the Furious', well...then you've seen 'Point Break' as it's pretty much the same film, just not as good.
Fresh out of the academy FBI agent Johnny Utah, an ex-college QB who never made it pro due to a knee injury, arrives in L.A. young, dumb and full of....fun.
Cocky and ready to bust some heads, he gets assigned to the special bank robbery branch where they've been futilely pursuing a flawless group of bank robbers 'The Ex-Presidents' – known for wearing the masks of former US Presidents, this group has successfully pulled off 30 robberies by never getting greedy and going for the vault.
A seemingly crazy idea stems from his manic partner (a perfectly cast Gary Busey) that the robbers are surfers due to tan lines and their penchant for robbing during the peak surfing season (just go with it…) where they can fund their bodacious surfing life of following the waves.
With this kernel of an idea, Johnny goes undercover as a newb surfer and quickly finds himself ingratiated with a surfer chick (Lori Petty) who takes him under her wing and introduces him to her ex – Bodhi, an adrenalin junkie free-spirit who talks of life at its grandest, respect and sticking it to the man.
Needless to say, Johnny and Bodhi see something of themselves in each other and when real intentions are discovered, loyalties are tested and people get punched…and kicked…and shot. Like, whoa, bra’.
At this point, the story - already clichéd - has been ripped off and parodied so much that anybody coming to the film fresh might never make it past the fact that the film was just ripe for self-parody.
‘Hot Fuzz’ directly references ‘Point Break’ on a number of occasions with hilarious results not to mention a popular ‘Point Break Live’ show where Keanu’s role is somebody randomly picked from the audience to read the script from cue cards as a direct homage to Keanu’s “subtle” acting in the pic (I’m not kidding, google it – it’s popular and a hilarious night out).
That being said, Reeves non-acting is perfect for the role and Swayze is a man-God to be reckoned with along with solid support from Gary Busey and Lori Petty. The action is consistently impressive with ‘Near Dark’ and ‘Strange Days’ director Kathryn Bigelow (married to James Cameron at the time who executive-produced) able to stage an action sequence that Michael Bay could learn a few things from.
The robberies are visceral, the skydiving sequences unique and a great foot chase that beat Casino Royale to the punch by more than a decade.
Fox brings ‘Point Break’ to Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC MPEG4 encode no doubt from the same master that produced the special edition DVD release from a few years back. It’s a good catalog effort if not extraordinary. The source is nice but includes grain typical of the era.
Detail is strong but people might be disappointed by the lack of visual punch which is not necessarily the transfer’s fault but more the intentional muted palette used for the film. The DTS-HD lossless 5.1 track, however, is quite impressive with great punch for a seventeen-year old pic.
The same features that were on the 2006 ‘Pure Adrenaline Edition’ DVD make their way here but nothing new for the Blu-Ray was provided – definitely a slight disappointment.
We get four featurettes, ‘It’s Make or Break’, ‘Ride the Wave’, ‘Adrenaline Junkies’ and ‘On Location: Malibu’ which consist of new interviews (from 2006) from almost all of the cast and crew including Swayze, director Bigelow and producer Rick King.
All told, the featurettes add up to about 45 minutes and provide a nice watch for fans but nothing terribly fascinating is learned.
We get 10 minutes of Deleted Scenes that don’t add much, mostly extended scenes and a still gallery consisting of a dozen PR shots.
A notable improvement over the DVD, the nice video and even better audio will warrant a look for fans despite no new special features. As a film, ‘Point Break’ remains a well-made visceral punch of an action movie even if certain elements have now become more infamous than famous.