Sunday, June 21, 2009

POINT BREAK: Blu-Ray (20th Century-Fox 1991) Fox Home Video

Based on a story by Rick King and W. Peter Illiff, Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break (1991) is a rather turgid action/adventure flick that has since found its cult following. Originally bought by Columbia Studios, the project languished for a brief period, was green lit, then canceled entirely, leaving producer Peter Abrams to watch in disbelief as the half constructed sets for his project were dismantled.

Enter executive producer James Cameron and his professional partner, Kathryn Bigelow with a decided interest in the project and a very lucrative picture deal at 20th Century-Fox. Together, this trio of creative minds conceived Point Break as a high octane thriller delving into the Californian subculture of surfer dudes and their beach bunny groupie chicks. Yet, the final results are curiously out of sync.

Fresh from his megawatt success in Dirty Dancing, Patrick Swayze is cast as surf junkie Bodhi, sporting a ‘moon doggie’ haircut, and, with a death wish. Together with his band of cronies, Bodhi robs banks in his spare time to pay for their adrenaline rushes on the waves. The hit squad’s gimmick is that they sport masks of former presidents Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson while looting various banks in the greater Los Angeles area.

Meanwhile at the FBI, Agent Pappas (Gary Busey) has a hunch that the timeline of the robberies coincides with high tide: ergo the robbers belong to that rare sect of individuals who worship surfing as a sort of warped religious experience rather than mere past time. Pappas doesn’t have much luck convincing his superior, the foul-mouthed and utterly arrogant, Ben Harp (John C. McGinley) of as much, but newbie agent, Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) believes that Pappas’ theory bears further investigation.

Utah takes to the beach but is a complete failure on his first attempt to cut an impressive figure in the water. Nearly drowning, Utah is saved by Tyler (Lori Petty); a surfer chick who works at a seaside greasy spoon. Cribbing from the FBI’s dossier on Tyler – which reveals that she has lost her parents in a plane crash - Utah feeds Tyler a line about wanting to learn to surf after his parents died in a car wreck. Understandably moved by his story, Tyler introduces Utah to Bodhi. A mutual – if rather bizarre – respect grows between this trio. Tyler and Utah become lovers and Bodhi introduces Utah to surfing’s counterculture.

Unfortunately, Utah learns too late that Bodhi is his man. Having already figured out that Utah is a federal agent, Bodhi forces Utah to take part in their next bank robbery or Tyler will die. The robbery goes bad and a few of Bodhi’s men are picked off in the confrontation with police. Suspecting that Utah has gone to the other side, Harp places him under arrest. However, Pappas frees Utah and together the two make for a showdown with Bodhi at the airport where Pappas is murdered by one of Bodhi’s men, Roach (James LeGros) but not before Pappas also fatal wounds Roach.

Bodhi forces Utah into the plane and after flying over Mexico, Bodhi, Roach and Johnny parachute into the desert. Bodhi frees Tyler to be with Utah, and then escapes to safety. Having previously told Utah of ‘the ultimate storm’ – a set of ideal surfing conditions along the Australian coast – Utah bides his time to make his arrest. However, at the last minute Bodhi convinces Utah to let him have one more ‘ride’ on the waves. Realizing that Bodhi is asking for permission to commit suicide, Utah releases Bodhi from custody to meet the end of his adrenaline rush on his own terms.

Point Break is hardly perfect entertainment. Its super charged action sequences are buttressed by some lethally boring melodramatic bookends that pivot on a flawed romantic relationship between Utah and Tyler. The surfing subculture narrative spirals into a seemingly endless sequence of drug parties and touch football games by bonfire.

The screen teems with angry, self loathing men on testosterone overdrive; a concept that plays itself too fast and wears out about midway through the film. Patrick Swayze’s Bodhi is perhaps the most perfectly realized character in the piece, but Reeve’s Johnny Utah is about as leaden and stultified a creation as the movies can produce. In the final analysis, Point Break breaks a cardinal rule of the action/thriller; zooming along to its inevitable conclusion with more thugs than thrills.

Fox Home Video’s Blu-Ray incarnation easily bests their previously released standard ‘Pure Adrenaline Edition.’ Colors are not as punchy as one might expect but fine detail is greatly improved. There’s a smoothly satisfying texture to the image while maintaining its razor sharpness. Flesh tones appear nature. Black levels are deep and solid. There are three audio mixes; one in 5.1 lossless DTS, another in 5.1 Dolby Digital, and a third in 4.0 Dolby Surround.
Featurettes are a direct import from the aforementioned standard DVD including; ‘It’s Make or Break’, ‘Ride the Wave’, ‘Adrenaline Junkies’ and ‘On Location: Malibu. There’s also several brief deleted scenes (not remastered), a stills gallery and theatrical trailer on tap.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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