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Kathryn Bigelow
Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Gary Busey, Lori Petty, John C. McGinley, James LeGros, John Philbin, Bojesse Christopher, Julian Reyes
Writing Credits:
Rick King (story), W. Peter Iliff (and story)

100% Pure Adrenaline.

Point Break is the high-velocity thrill ride in which clean-cut FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) goes head to head with surfer renegade Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) in this nonstop action drama. Utah is assigned to go undercover, investigating a string of 28 bank robberies by a gang called the Ex-Presidents. With very little to go on, as the Ex-Presidents are adept at their trade, deal only in cash, and never leave behind clues, Utah's only lead comes from his partner, Pappas (Gary Busey). Pappas believes that the Ex-Presidents are a surfer gang, lead by charismatic adrenalin junkie Bodhi. Posing as a surfer himself, Utah slowly becomes a member of Bodhi's gang, enticed by his energy and craziness. As Utah's investigation goes deeper, with dazzling extreme sports hijinks that involve night surfing, sky diving, and well-executed bank robberies that serve as the glue between his world and Bodhi's, Utah must ultimately choose between duty and friendship. Director Kathryn Bigelow presents a well-sculpted masterpiece with this action-lover's dream, adding another gem to an already glowing filmography.

Box Office:
$24 million.
Domestic Gross
$43.218 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Digital 4.0
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish Monaural

Runtime: 122 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 10/3/2006

• 8 Deleted Scenes
• “It’s Make or Break” Featurette
• “Ride the Wave” Featurette
• “Adrenaline Junkies” Featurette
• “On Location: Malibu” Featurette
• 3 Trailers
• Still Gallery
• Booklet


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Point Break: Pure Adrenaline Edition (1991)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 22, 2006)

Bank-robbing surfers: if that theme doesn’t define “Hollywood high-concept”, I don’t know what will. Despite the silly idea behind Point Break, the movie itself actually provides a fairly entertaining experience in which the caliber of the action generally outweighs the goofiness inherent in the project.

At the start of Break, we learn of a group of long-time bank robbers whose professionalism has made their whereabouts a total mystery to law enforcement agencies. Called the “Ex-Presidents” because they sport masks of Reagan, Carter, Nixon and Johnson (poor Jerry Ford!), these slick crooks work a seasonal schedule and elude all attempts to nab them.

Cocky young FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) joins the detail when he learns of his new partner’s theories about the Ex-Presidents: Agent Pappas (Gary Busey) thinks that the robbers are surfers. Others berate this notion, but he finds lots of evidence to back up his ideas. He gets Johnny to agree and then go undercover to infiltrate the surfing subculture to get a bead on the thieves.

During his pathetic attempts to learn the sport, Johnny meets - and promptly falls for - surfing babe Tyler (Lori Petty). Through her, he connects with one of the local surfing cliques, one led by shaggy philosopher Bodhi (Patrick Swayze). As the film progresses, Johnny gets deeper into the group while he tries to find the culprits and solve the case.

That storyline doesn’t state anything that would make Point Break stand out from a slew of other crime-related action flicks, and it’s really the surfing element that creates an unusual demeanor for the movie. The change of scenery adds a nice tone to the film that helps it avoid a generic quality that otherwise might have harmed it.

Director Kathryn Bigelow has maintained a solid cult following with movies like Break, 1987’s Near Dark, and 1995’s Strange Days. Frankly, I think she’s overrated; while all three of those flicks offered entertainment, none lived up to their potential. In that regard, I found Strange Days to be the biggest disappointment of the bunch. It was interesting but it could have been really special. Point Break doesn’t quite fire on all cylinders, but it manages to overcome most of its potential problems.

Key among the probable trouble spots was the movie’s stars, since Reeves and Swayze aren’t exactly known for their scintillating acting skills. Reeves offers the usual stiff and monotone performance as Utah. Actually, I’ve always thought that Keanu was a fairly likable presence in his films, but I can’t defend his work from the myriad of detractors. He does best as either a stoner ala River’s Edge or a one-dimensional action hero as in Speed or The Matrix. In the latter examples, Reeves flies highest when he’s really just a cog in a greater universe. Those roles required little than a handsome, charismatic personality, and he could do that.

When he is required to provide additional dimension to the parts, however, Keanu has more trouble, which is why his work as Utah seems like a mixed bag. Johnny becomes confused and torn as he integrates with the gang, but Reeves shows no ability to portray those dimensions of his character.

On the other hand, Swayze seems surprisingly smooth and loose as Bodhi. Perhaps this is because he really doesn’t need to show many emotions; he’s in control and doesn’t go through as many changes as Johnny. In Ghost, Swayze had a few solid moments, but the range of feelings required in the role harmed him, so it’s good to see that he found a part that was catered more to his restrictions. As Bodhi, he appears to fill out the character’s hedonistic desires and makes him a fairly compelling personality.

Bigelow manages to stage the action sequences with enough verve to let us tolerate the character-driven moments. Frankly, I didn’t really care about any of the various folks found in the movie. I assumed Johnny would eventually get his men, but I felt little investment in the outcome. Nonetheless, Point Break provided an entertaining diversion that made it more successful than it could have been. I wouldn’t call it a great action flick, but I thought it did enough well to be a decent one.

Bad inside joke alert: at one point, Utah mentions a lunch appointment at “Patrick’s Roadhouse”. This is a reference to Swayze’s 1989 dud Roadhouse. No, it wasn’t terribly clever, but at least they made an attempt to keep the audience on their toes.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus C+

Point Break appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although I expected we’d get the same lackluster visuals that came with the 2001 release of the film, this much improved new transfer.

As with the 2001 disc, sharpness appeared consistently positive. Throughout the film, I saw fine accuracy and detail, and even wider shots came across as well-defined. Very little softness appeared during the film, as the movie seemed concise and crisp. No instances of shimmering or jagged edges occurred, and I noticed no edge enhancement.

For the 2001 DVD, print flaws caused moderately significant concerns. Happily, those went missing here. The movie boasted a very clean transfer that suffered from virtually no source defects. Grain also remained minimal, unlike the gritty 2001 transfer.

Break featured a pretty subdued and naturalistic palette, and these hues seemed quite solid. That was another improvement over the original disc. For it, I thought the colors were a bit drab, but the 2006 edition’s tones appeared nicely lively and full. Blacks also were stronger here, as the new disc showed good darkness and depth to those elements. Shadow detail came across as quite good, with nice definition to the low-light sequences. Across the board, the new transfer was terrific and it marked a significant upgrade over its predecessor.

Comparisons became murkier when I looked at the DVD’s audio. The original 2001 disc included DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 4.1 tracks. Here we found a DD 4.0 mix along with a Dolby Digital 5.1 version. I stayed with the latter for this review and wanted to compare it against the old disc’s DTS mix.

The Dolby 5.1 soundfield seemed fairly active. The forward spectrum provided a nice range of ambient effects that were well-balanced and placed appropriately within the mix. Sounds moved neatly across the channels and created a fairly realistic and convincing environment.

As for the surrounds, they offered a strong level of interaction during appropriate scenes. For example, beach shots featured good use of waves and other atmospheric noises, and the environment heard during the skydiving scenes could be quite enveloping. I didn’t detect any split-surround information, though it was hard to tell. In any case, there was no clear use of the stereo surrounds. Any potential examples of this were minor, so it’s safe to say that most of the audio from the rear was monaural.

Sound quality seemed fairly good for the most part. Speech appeared slightly thin and reedy, but I heard no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. While the dialogue lacked much warmth, the lines were clear and distinct.

Similarly, effects could be somewhat flat, but they generally offered good clarity, and only a few minor instances of distortion appeared during gunshots and a car chase. Music seemed nicely delineated, with bright highs and solid lows. Actually, these mixes boasted very nice bass response. Ultimately, Point Break featured a solid auditory experience for a somewhat older movie.

The paragraphs above represent a slight alteration of the remarks I left about the old disc’s DTS track. In truth, I could discern little to differentiate that DTS version from the 2006 release’s Dolby 5.1 track. Both were very good, though they just missed “A”-level consideration.

Another change came via the DVD’s extras, as the 2001 disc provided only a few minor supplements. Titled the “Pure Adrenaline Edition”, the 2006 edition doesn’t go nuts with goodies, but at least it throws in a few components.

Eight Deleted Scenes last a total of four minutes, 35 seconds. These include “Holistic Fitness with Agent Pappas” (7 seconds), “Agent Johnny Utah Thinks He Can Surf” (0:49), “Tyler Saves Johnny From the Waves” (0:24), “Penetration of the Social Infrastructure” (1:24), “Tyler and Johnny Spend Time Alone in the Water” (0:56), “A Basic Hit and Run” (0:07), “Tyler Accuses Johnny of Using Her” (0:23), and “Johnny and Bodhi Talk About Robbing Banks” (0:25).

That’s not much running time for so many scenes. Of course, two that last only seven seconds each don’t help, and the lack of a “Play All” button makes it a chore to go through this section. Frankly, the scenes aren’t worth the effort. Most are very minor additions to existing sequences, and not a single one seems memorable.

The DVD’s most substantial extra comes via a featurette called It’s Make or Break. The 23-minute and two-second program mixes movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from co-producer/story writer Rick King, screenwriter W. Peter Iliff, producers Robert L. Levy and Peter Abrams, director Kathryn Bigelow, stunt double Scott Wilder and Pat Banta, stunt coordinator/second unit director Glenn R. Wilder, and actors Gary Busey, Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Lori Petty, John C. McGinley, John Philbin and BoJesse Christopher. Most of the comments come from modern sessions, but some – most notably Bigelow and Reeves – clearly were shot in the early 90s.

“Make” looks at the story’s origins and development, how Bigelow came onto the project and her impact on it, cast and characters, shooting the film’s surfing sequences and other action pieces, and reflections on the flick. “Make” is a bit lighter than I’d like, largely because it includes way too many movie snippets. Despite that issue, it provides a pretty decent look at the production. We get some good remarks about the actors and their work as well as info related to stunts and action. I particularly like the details about how they shot the skydiving bits. This is a perfectly competent show.

Another featurette appears next. Ride the Wave goes for six minutes, seven seconds and includes Petty, Swayze, King, Scott Wilder, McGinley, Philbin, Iliff, Abrams, Levy, and Christopher. As implied by the title, “Wave” concentrates on surfing, particularly the spirituality side. Those involved throw out vague mystical thoughts about the ocean and nature as well as the depiction of surfers in the film. This doesn’t add up to anything particularly intriguing.

Next we get a featurette entitled Adrenaline Junkies. The six-minute and one-second show presents notes from Swayze, Glenn R. Wilder, Banta, Scott Wilder, McGinley, Christopher, Iliff, Abrams, Philbin, Busey, Petty, and King. “Junkies” concentrates on the pursuit of risky activities and those depicted in the film. We learn a bit about skydiving and what scary things the participants like to do. All of this stays more general than I’d like, so we don’t really learn anything not already found in “It’s Make or Break”.

Finally, On Location: Malibu lasts eight minutes and 32 seconds. It features Christopher and Philbin in Malibu as they lead us on a little tour of that location. They give us info about shooting the flick and aspects of the beach elements used in the film. I like the story about beach football and the poster shoot, and we get some nice material in this fun piece.

In addition to three Point Break Trailers, we get a Still Gallery. It presents 25 images from the set. That’s not a lot of shots, but they’re moderately interesting, at least. The package finishes with a booklet that provides short but useful production notes.

Does the “Pure Adrenaline Edition” lose anything from the 2001 DVD? Yes, though I doubt anyone will miss the absent components. The 2006 release drops a useless three-and-a-half minute promotional featurette and trailers for Chain Reaction, Big Trouble In Little China, and Unlawful Entry.

Point Break doesn’t have the stuff to be an action flick classic. Nonetheless, I thought it was a generally entertaining and well-executed romp that avoided some of the goofier excesses of the genre. The DVD provides very good picture and audio along with a mediocre set of extras.

Break isn’t good enough for me to urge a “blind buy”, but action buffs might want to give it a rental. Those who already like it will want to grab this new disc – and that goes for folks who already own the original release. The 2006 edition adds new extras and comes with a substantially improved transfer. The supplements don’t make the 2006 disc a home run, but it’s definitely a step up from its 2001 predecessor.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 20
4 3:
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