As most of us have realized by now, the movie billed as "one-hundred percent pure adrenaline" is one-hundred percent pure bullshit. But you have to figure in the statistical margin of error. Thanks to director Kathryn Bigelow (Near Dark, Strange Days), Point Break is an irrepressible action movie. The story of a young FBI agent going after a band of bank-robbing surfers proves consistently stylish, dumb, and entertaining.
In his action breakthrough, Keanu Reeves plays freshly-minted FBI Special Agent Johnny Utah, a former college football star (hence the Joe Montana-esque name). In the film-launching walk-and-talk through the L.A. bureau, Utah's boss (John C. McGinley) informs him, "You are now in the bank robbery capital of the world." That in itself is a promising start to an action film, but it only gets better when Utah is paired with Agent Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey). As any movie lover knows, Busey is all kinds of crazy, which is good for at least 10% of the movie's adrenaline.
A gang called the Ex-Presidents—because of their m.o. of ironically wearing masks of Republican Presidents—has been ripping off banks up and down the coastline, and Pappas believes that they're surfers (though he has legitimate reasons, no one will believe him—until Utah). So Utah learns to surf in the hopes of infilitrating the surf community and getting wind of the culprits. Shortly thereafter he meets a tight-knit group of surfers led by "Bodhi" ("the Bodhisattva"), a thrill-junkie aggressively searching for "the ultimate ride." As Bodhi, Patrick Swayze gives the most polished performance in the movie, taking his character seriously and skillfully enacting his blithely reckless intentions.
W. Peter Iliff's script doesn't even give Swayze a fully rounded character, just surf koans like "If you want the ultimate, you gotta be willing to pay the ultimate price" and "We can exist on a different plane. We can make our own rules." But Swayze imbues them with a seductive zeal, lulling us into following him to the edge where he lives. The same cannot be said for Reeves, who gives one of his all-time most wooden performances. Lines like "Fuck! Why can't I ever say what I really mean?!" ain't Shakespeare, but Reeves fails to find any recognizable truth in them—he just blares them dully like someone calling for a price check. It has to be said that he's pretty awful, but because his buff bod is awfully pretty, he's able to give a convincing physical performance.
A distinctive Lori Petty is wasted as Utah's requisite surf-chick girlfriend, but she's part of a sandy ensemble that's there to give some grit to surface-smooth characters—James Le Gros, Tom Sizemore and, in a bit part, Anthony Kiedis also travel through the story. So if Point Break is so lame, what keeps it on the cultural radar? For starters, the well choreographed and executed action sequences by James Cameron protégé Bigelow: the robberies, an FBI raid, chases on foot and by car, and a very impressive skydiving sequence made more credible by a shot of Swayze himself leaping out of a plane without a cut. Perhaps no beat in Point Break is more famous than Reeves shooting into the air in frustration, a campy and actor-proof moment. For audiences searching for the ultimate ride, this isn't it, but it's good fun watching Reeves and Swayze play chicken with each other.
Fox's Blu-Ray premiere of Point Break will please the film's fans. Though the source itself is somewhat grainy, it's supposed to look that way, and the transfer gives expert high-def treatment to the fast-paced action, the scenery (especially the glistening water), and even the night scenes, which don't disappear into shadows. A pumped-up DTS HD Master Lossless Audio track puts you in the middle of the action.
The Blu-Ray also includes all of the DVD's special edition bonus features: four featurettes, three trailers for the film, and a photo gallery. "It's Make or Break" (23:03) gathers a surprisingly large group of commentators to tell the story of the film's making. Reeves and Bigelow are present only in vintage footage, but we get 2006 interviews with a host of others: Patrick Swayze, Gary Busey, Lori Petty, John C. McGinley, John Philbin, BoJesse Christopher, co-producer/story writer Rick King, screenwriter W. Peter Iliff, producer Peter Abrams, producer Robert L. Levy, Swayze stunt double Scott Wilder, stunt coordinator/second unit director Glenn R. Wilder, and Reeves stunt double Pat Banta. That Fox went to all this trouble suggests they were already eyeing Point Break as a potential franchise (a sequel is now slated for 2009).
"Ride the Wave" (6:08) includes reflections on surfing from most of the above, while "Adrenaline Junkies" (6:02) does the same for daring pursuits such as skydiving. The conversational "On Location: Malibu" (8:32) is a cool feature that simply lets Philbin and Christopher go back to the locations, point things out, and catch up in front of the camera. Trailers (4:15 with a "Play All" option) include "Trailer A" (1:59), "Trailer B" (1:09) and "Trailer C" (1:09), and the Photo Gallery contains 25 production stills. The disc also includes previews for Jumper, Man on Fire, and Live Free or Die Hard.
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