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Point Break

Fox // R // July 1, 2008
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 1, 2008 | E-mail the Author
"Ever fired your gun in the air and yelled, 'AAAAAAARRRRRRRRR!'?"

Okay, okay, I've been watching a bunch of Spaced lately, Hot Fuzz is still kinda fresh and doughy in my mind... That's why I'm banging out a review of Point Break right after posting a write-up, Black Narcissus. Yeah, that's a double feature.

Los Angeles is the bank robbery capital of the world, with somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,300 heists in the space of just a year. Sure, the FBI's got tracking those badniks down to a science, but the one group that they've never come close to getting their hands on are The Ex-Presidents: a kinda playful bunch of robbers in rubber presidential masks who consistently swoop in and out in 90 seconds flat, just grabbing whatever cash is on-hand and never bothering to bust into the vault. One grizzled agent (Gary Busey) has a theory -- these punks are surfers -- but the rest of his buddies at the FBI just kinda laugh him off. His new partner, Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) -- a one-time football hero fresh outta Quantico -- though...? He buys it, going not-really-undercover to infiltrate the seedy underbelly of SoCal's surfing scene. What does he find? Romance! (Cue Lori Petty.) Danger! (Cue a bunch of surf nazis, including a turn by Anthony Kiedis.) Adventure! (Cue Patrick Swayze as the hyperphilosophical ass-kicker Bodhi.) As Johnny gets further and further entrenched in the surfer subculture, he gets closer to finding out who the Ex-Presidents are, but is he getting too close...? Well, yeah, but that's supposed to be rhetorical or whatever.

Actually, scratch all that: here's a better rundown of the movie.

Look, no one's gonna mistake Point Break for some sort of probing, semi-profound arthouse flick. It's at least a half hour too long. The dialogue is hysterically-slash-cringingly dumb. You've got Keanu Reeves diving out of an airplane without a parachute to take down a skydiving bank robber. There's some random nekkid broad stabbing cops as her titties flop around during an FBI raid, a fistfight a couple inches away from an overturned lawnmower, a montage of Keanu and Gary Busey cutting off surfers' hair, Patrick Swayze kickin' the shit outta surf nazis Road House-style... Johnny Utah is supposed to hail from Ohio but still has a heckuva lot of Ted Theodore Logan in his accent, and Reeves' acting is so stilted and wooden that it sounds like he's reading cue cards flung around by some grip just off-camera. At least the action still holds up pretty well 17 years later, particularly a frenzied foot chase through the 'burbs (leading up to the "AAAAAAARRRRRRRRR!!!!" gunfire bit), a couple of particularly violent raids, and the extreme footage of all the skydiving and surfing ain't bad either.

C'mon, I know what you're thinking: Back off, Warchild. Seriously. Point Break is a deliriously stupid action flick and a hell of a guilty pleasure. It's really only good for a half-drunken nostalgic blast, but that's enough for me to cram "Rent It" in big, bold letters, right? Okay: Rent It.

Video: Fox has done a
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decent job bringing Point Break to Blu-ray, but it's an odd choice for a kinda-sorta early high-def release. The photography really isn't that slick, showing every last one of its seventeen years and then some: the scope image is soft, flat, and grainy, sporting a predominately grayish, overcast palette and anemic black levels. It's nice to see that Fox didn't overprocess Point Break to try to make it look artificially shiny and glossy on Blu-ray, but this is kind of a modest step up over what I'd expect from a DVD, and it's tough to recommend shelling out $30 or $40 to upgrade from a DVD I can dig out of a bargain bin for $7. On the upside, the AVC compression never buckles under the weight of the film grain, there's no sign of clunky noise reduction or edge enhancement, and crispness and clarity are both pretty solid in the big action scenes. Point Break's 1080p spit-and-polish really isn't going to wow anyone, but I'm sure it's faithful to the way the movie looked during its theatrical run all the way back in 1991, and I guess that's all I can ask for.

Audio: The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is pretty solid, though, cramming a heckuva lot of atmosphere into the surrounds and backed by a devastating low-frequency rumble. The subwoofer rattles everything in the room as the waves come crashing down, and the sprays of gunfire are a tight and punchy slug in the gut. Point Break's dialogue sounds dated but is reasonably crisp and clear, only really starting to show any strain during a few shouting matches. It's a solid remix and better than I'd expect from an action flick closing in on its (yikes!) 20th anniversary.

The disc also sports mixes in
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Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 4.0, along with stereo dubs in French and Spanish. Subtitles are served up in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Korean.

Extras: The only high-def extras on this Blu-ray disc are a fistful of trailers for other Fox releases. Even the three trailers for Point Break are all in grainy standard definition.

There are four and a half minutes of deleted scenes that are in really rough shape, and most of 'em are just a couple of lines of additional dialogue. It's all pretty forgettable.

The meatiest of the disc's extras is the 23 minute retrospective "It's Make or Break", which is anchored around newly recorded interviews with the key cast and crew, although Keanu Reeves and director Kathryn Bigelow only pop up briefly in vintage clips. It's pretty comprehensive, diving into what inspired the story, a stillborn attempt at getting Point Break off the ground before it stalled for four full years, lots and lots of notes about casting, the technical end of shooting the surfing and skydiving scenes, choreographing the fistfights, and what it was like to put together an action flick under a female director.

I also really dug "On Location:
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Malibu" (9 min.), which has actors BoJesse Christopher and John Philbin heading back to Leo Carillo State Park to show off some of the locations where Point Break was filmed: the bonfire, the beach football game, the restaurant down the road where Johnny worms his way into Tyler's heart, and even the movie's poster. These two were the surfers of the bunch, so they naturally spend a lot of time talking about the scenes on the water as well. It's a lot more fun than I thought it was gonna be: Christopher and Philbin have a hell of a lot of personality, even trying to spout off some of the lines from the flick and gingerly sprinkling a bunch of profanity in with their memories just for good measure. It's worth a look.

The other two featurettes are pretty much a waste, though. "Ride the Wave" rambles on for six minutes about the spirituality of surfing, and...yeah, that's about it. "Adrenaline Junkies" (6 min.) kind of does the same for that search for the edge, gabbing about the stuntwork and Swayze being so hellbent on leaping out of planes, but it's kinda pointless too, especially since all of this had already been tackled in "It's Make or Break".

Last up is a photo gallery with 25 behind-the-scenes stills.

Conclusion: Hundred percent pure adrenaline or a schlocky, dated guilty pleasure? Take your pick. Point Break is the sort of cheesy action flick I might dig out of a bargain bin for ten bucks -- and that's about what the DVD runs these days -- but to shell out $30 or $40 for this Blu-ray disc...? Nah. The movie really doesn't even look that great in high-def. Wait for this one to hit the cutout bins or just Rent It.
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