Summer is a traditionally a time for popcorn films, the mindless box-office flicks where you set aside your brain for a couple of hours and just soak in the multimedia. It’s also a time for sun, surf and sex on the beach (the drink, of course) But what about a popcorn film that includes the other accoutrements and, even better, is appearing on Blu-ray for the first time? Well as luck would have it, 20th Century Fox has just the movie: the Point Break, a 1991 film about a group of bank robbers known as The Ex-Presidents who have regularly hit California banks during the summertime.
Point Break has “popcorn flick” written all over it. When veteran FBI agent Angelo Papas (Gary Busey) realizes the Ex-Presidents are a bunch of surfers, his new partner and rookie agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) is picked to infiltrate the local surf scene in the hopes of catching the Ex-Presidents in the act. A few initial missteps aside, Utah eventually ingrains himself into both the scene and the group, eventually becoming closer to the gang’s Zen-adrenaline leader Bodhi (played by Patrick Swayze) and blurring the line between good and bad for the hotshot agent.
Because of its predictability and stereotypical nature, Point Break viewers are always one step ahead of the film’s story and its characters. You know who the bad guys are right off the bat, and you know who lives and who doesn’t. Heck, you even know exactly where the final showdown is going to occur, thanks to an obvious exposition at the film’s midpoint. As if the by-the-numbers story wasn’t enough, the characters don’t really fare much better. Swayze’s spiritual criminal aside, these characters are as one-dimensional and stereotypical as they come.
But let’s face facts: with a summer-friendly film like Point Break, story and characters aren’t the most important facets. They’re merely a clothesline to hang the film’s real attractions on: the bang, the boom, the bullets and babes. To that end, the film delivers the goods, and does so pretty well. Reeve’s performance is (expectedly) wooden, with some line readings being absolutely priceless. If anything, Keanu’s work shows that while he’s still not a great actor by any stretch, the “dude” has improved a little during the past 17 years, even if only slightly.
In the supporting categories, Lori Petty doesn’t fare much better than Pinocchio as the prerequisite love interest, but at least her line deliveries are less wooden and she was kind of cute to look at. The turns by Swayze, Busey and John C. McGinley as the uptight FBI head, however, are all pretty solid for a film like this. They manage to take their characters and bring them up a notch thanks to their performances. Keep an eye out for Tom Sizemore and Red Hot Chili Pepper lead Anthony Kiedis in two small, amusing appearances.
I have always said that depending on the subject matter, films don’t have to be terribly original or deep to be good. All they need is a cast and crew working on it that can give the familiar a fresh-enough spin to make it fun. That is exactly the case with Point Break. If you like action films that have a high-energy level and one that executes the action genre essentials with a fair amount of competence; this is one cinematic wave you might consider riding this summer, and you won’t have to deal with beach crowds, to boot.
To be honest, my hopes were not exactly on the high side for the picture and audio presentations for Point Break. The sound on the DVD edition was a bit on the flat side (what exactly is Dolby 4.0 Surround sound, anyway?) while the picture was a messy mix of grain, video noise and compression artifacts.
The Blu-ray, while not a knock-you-out-of-your-socks transfer along the lines of an action film made today, is a solid presentation nonetheless. Those who have feared Fox, recently due to their overuse of DNR on catalog titles, can breathe easy here: the film’s grain is intact. The colors and picture detail found in the 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encode are decent, and compression and video noise don’t pose any problems. The blacks do tend to crush a bit during some of the nighttime scenes and there is some softness to be had, but overall I found this to be an acceptable transfer and a sizeable improvement over the DVD releases.
Fox has bestowed the film with three English audio tracks to choose from: a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track and the 4.0 Dolby Surround track. I chose to listen to the DTS track for my viewing of the movie, and the sound is quite impressive given the film’s age. Center channel dialogue is clear, the surrounds are well-used and the bass kicks in nicely during the surfing and action scenes. Like the video, this is not demo material by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a track that gets the job done.
Point Break didn’t set the box office on fire back in 1991 (roughly $42 million at the box office), but it has amassed quite the cult following over the past 17 years. So, it seems only fair that Fox gave it a special edition a couple of years back. It wasn’t an all-encompassing edition, and archive footage aside, there was little to no input from either Kathryn Bigelow or Keanu Reeves. Still, enough folks associated with the movie were around to contribute. The extras, all ported from the SD edition to the Blu-ray, cover enough ground to give fans a decent look behind the scenes. Most of the extras are in 16×9 and 480p Standard-Definition and look decent.
The featurettes include: It’s Make or Break (23:03): The making of ‘Point Break’ covers the basics: the origins of the project, working on the film, how it turned out, etc. The film’s producers, screenwriter and cast members Patrick Swayze, Gary Busey, John C. McGinley and Lori Petty are interviewed. Archive interview footage with Kathryn Bigelow and Keanu Reeves is also included.
Ride the Wave (6:08): A collection of interview snippets with the cast and crew featuring their thoughts on the image of the sport of surfing and the spiritual side of the sport as well. Worth a watch, but not anything beyond that.
Adrenaline Junkies (6:02): a quick look at the stunt work on the film, as well as the rush of adrenaline experienced by the cast while making the film. As always, Busey offers the funniest anecdotes. They really should have let the man do his own audio commentary track for this movie, they really should have.
On Location-Malibu (8:32): the last- and most dispensable- of the mini-docs on the disc, On Location has actors BoJesse Christopher (Grommet) and John Philbin (Nathanial) taking us on a quick tour around the Malibu shore, pointing out spots where certain scenes were shot. This is worth a watch only to see the Malibu shore and preferably with the sound down.
Deleted Scenes: Approximately five minutes of deleted scenes are presented. The scenes are in pretty poor condition and look like they were lifted from a VHS tape. The cut scenes are mostly scene extensions and wouldn’t add much to the movie if they had been left in.
Trailers: The film’s three domestic theatrical trailers are presented and are in decent condition.
Photo Gallery: 25 behind-the-scene photos are presented here. Nothing special and nothing you will ever look at more than once, but it’s nice that Fox included them on the disc nonetheless.
Not the brainiest or most original action film around, but Point Break does prove to be good summertime fun that has aged surprisingly well. Fox has given the film a nice Blu-ray release that should please next-gen DVD fans of the movie and provide a decent rental for everyone else.
— Shawn Fitzgerald