POINT BREAK - DVD review

[It] isn't a great film but it's surprisingly effective.

aerykwoo

"I am an F-B-I agent!" Those classic words uttered from the mouth of Keanu Reeves are forever ingrained in my head and have probably made a mark of their own on the pop culture pantheon. It's all because of "Point Break," a film from director Kathryn Bigelow and executive produced by James Cameron, and it's much better than it deserves to be. Featuring existential brooding, male bonding, some extreme sports, frenetic action scenes and Gary Busey chewing on his scenes the only way Gar Busey knows how, what more could you ask for out of a guilty pleasure?

Reeves stars as Johnny Utah, a former Rose Bowl quarterback who missed his chance at the big time due to a knee injury, and, as a result, turned to studying law, joined the FBI and requests a stint on the Bank Robbery division in LA. Utah is effectively given the lay of the land by his superior, agent Harp, who is played by John McGinley with the same zest and attitude that would make him just as memorable as Dr. Cox on "Scrubs," but the exception is that Harp is nowhere near as nice.

Utah is immediately assigned to his new partner, special agent Pappas (Busey), a rebel, who likes to stretch the boundaries of his badge. The bureau has been stumped by a long series of robberies by a group of thieves known as the Ex-Presidents, wearing masks of Nixon, Carter, Reagan and Johnson. They're good and efficient, never leaving any clues behind and consistently getting under Harp's skin, which Pappas actually likes.

Pappas has a theory that the Ex-Presidents are surfers, which is all backed-up by a series of subtle clues that, for some reason, he's convinced will lead him to the L.A. county beaches. Pappas convinces Johnny to go undercover and pose as a lawyer who's trying to break into surfing. Johnny has a tough time at first breaking the ranks of the surfing hierarchy but soon finds that his former position as a college ball player sits well with the local guru, Bodhi (Patrick Swayze), who likes to lay on thick monologues about the philosophical underpinnings of the surfer's ethos.

Bodhi is charming enough that Utah gravitates to him in some sort of doe-eyed hero worship. Johnny understands Bodhi on a deeper level and the connection they make is one of harmonious karma. Johnny is quickly accepted into their ranks and even starts dating Bodhi's ex-girlfriend (Lori Petty). Of course, things get complicated when Johnny discovers that his surfing buddies are the surfers he's been looking for and Bodhi is their Richard Nixon mask wearing ring leader.

Once this all hits the fan we get fevered foot chases through the streets of L.A., gritty shootouts, and a pair of sky diving sequences that leave you in a visceral state of shock. The film, like Bodhi, has its charm despite its shortcomings. Yes, the plot is preposterous, but the film places you firmly in its grasp, unrelenting in the way it makes you feel safely apart of some grandiose movement. Then it hits you with a cracker jack of a treat when Johnny dives out of plane chute-less after Bodhi, only to tackle him mid-air and place a gun to his head. It makes your inner action fan squeal with delight.

All of this is nicely balanced by Bigelow, who's had a number of interesting action oriented films ("Near Dark," "Blue Steel," Strange Days"). She tries to bring to light the reasoning behind the characters living their lives the way they do. Bodhi is a thinker, a philosopher who places his actions into practice without any care of the consequences. Life is one big wave for him and all be damned it he isn't going to ride it out to the end. Bigelow does her best with the material and, as I've stated before, the result is much better than it deserves to be.

Video
"Point Break: pure Adrenaline Edition" is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The image looks pretty good with colors appropriately balanced. Darks are rich and deep and provide a fine contrast for the colors. The palette is actually not as vibrant as you might expect and actually feels a little desaturated in parts, which might be more of a stylistic choice than the transfer itself. The film does suffer from some grain but in spots. Nevertheless, the transfer is solid throughout.

Audio
Audio is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1, English 4.0, Spanish Mono and French Dolby Surround. The 5.1 is a solid mix nicely balancing the dialogue, music and ambient noises. Still, some of the surround effects feel like they came out of a can, but this is a fairly minor distraction. Otherwise, the sound mix is good and punches things up a bit from the previous 4.0 mix. English and Spanish subtitles are also included.

Extras
There are a handful of extras on the Pure Adrenaline Edition, all of which are somewhat disappointing but do offer up a decent look back at the making of the film. "Its Make or Break" is a 30 minute retrospective featurette featuring interviews with some of cast and crew, all of whom reminisce about making the film and their experiences working with each other and Keanu Reeves (who is only featured through an old interview).

"Ride the Waves," "Adrenaline Junkies," and "On Locations: Malibu" are all very brief, roughly 5 minute, featurettes that detail the philosophical tendencies and motivations behind some of the film's character, take a look at some of the films stunts and filming in Malibu.

Eight deleted scenes are also included, none of which are severely significant in any way. A still gallery and three trailers for the film are also included.

Film Value
I'm convinced that Kathryn Bigelow is an amazing filmmaker because no one else could have possibly made "Point Break" such an enjoyable ride. From the action scenes to the heroes lamenting about the ideals of life through surfing, the film packs a healthy punch of goofy delight only found in a true guilty pleasure. "Point Break" isn't a great film but it's surprisingly effective.


Ratings

Video
8
Audio
7
Extras
5
Film Value
6