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20th Century Fox presents
Ben: Over the last two weeks, you two have produced exactly squat! SQUAT! During which time the Ex-Presidents have robbed two more banks. Now, does either one of you have anything even remotely interesting to tell me?
DVD ReviewPoint Break holds a prestigious position in the annals of Joel's film history. It was the first R-rated film I rented and watched by myself. I was about 11, and I really enjoyed it: the action scenes were great, and the characters were interesting. Of course, at 11, I wasn't the most discriminating filmgoer. When I heard of the impending DVD release, I was excited to see if I'd still enjoy it. Would I appreciate it in a, "Wow, remember how much I used to like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?" way or in a "Superman II still stands up!" way? Happily, it was the latter. Despite some clunky dialogue and a rather absurd premise, Point Break still is, nevertheless, a great action movie.
A young FBI agent with the rather unfortunate name of Johnny Utah (Reeves) is fresh out of Quantico. He's been assigned to the bank robbery unit and to veteran Pappas (Busey), the laughingstock of the agency. The two are on the trail of an accomplished group of bank robbers—four men who operate while wearing latex masks of Reagan, LBJ, Nixon, and Carter. They call themselves the Ex-Presidents, and they've robbed 29 banks in six years, without leaving any clues as to their identities. Pappas rather absurdly surmises that the robbers are surfers (one has a tan line, plus some pseudo-scientific tests find trace ocean chemicals on some hair, or something), so Utah takes a big chunk of taxpayer cash to integrate himself into the surfing community. While the whole thing sounds a bit like one of those producer pitches in The Player, if you can forgive the set-up, there's a lot to enjoy.
This is the third Keanu movie I've reviewed in the last few months, and it's getting a bit tough to keep coming up with snippy little sarcastic insults. Let me reverse the trend here by praising the guy. No, he isn't good here, but he is so bad, his performance is elevated to a work of art. Just watch his emotional final scene. "Vaya con Dios, brah," indeed. Patrick Swayze plays surfer-guru/robber Bodhi with all the ham-handedness the role demands - his speeches about the spirituality of surfing are some of the most memorable of the movie. The supporting cast seems to be on the same over-the-top wavelength. Gary Busey has a ball, spitting out lines like "I was an FBI agent back when you were still sh***ing in your hands and rubbing it on your face!" (which, by the way, I never did). Lori Petty... well... looks hot, which basically fulfills the requirements of the role of "action film love interest," and this is one of her rare film appearances (after her career tanked post-Tank Girl).
The script, despite some lame dialogue, is actually pretty good for the genre, but it isn't anything new. The basic conundrum: Utah is befriending the surfers even as he is investigating them. It's been done time and time again, but layered with the serene, spiritual guru and the mysticism of the hard-core surfer, this installment of Clichéd Action Plot actually works quite well. The heroes and the villain are equally well-drawn, and it's hard not to feel sympathy for both.
Kathryn Bigelow, a rare female action director, proves her eye for compelling staging in Point Break. There are several sequences that totally succeed at getting your adrenaline pumping. Most impressive are two skydiving scenes, but I also enjoyed a complex chase sequence, which moves from a car chase to a race through houses and back alleys. She falters a little with the more emotional scenes, and I could have done without about half of the slow-motion surfing scenes; but overall, this film is quite a visual kick in the pants. Also, whoever came up with the idea of the Ex-Presidents theme for the robbers earned their pay. The masks lend a surreal slant—and they just look darn cool.
Despite horrible reviews and mediocre box-office, Point Break has become a cult-classic on video. Perhaps the corny premise is easier to buy on the small screen; perhaps it is more acceptable to guffaw at Reeves' acting in the privacy of home. Whatever the reason, it makes a fine choice for late-night DVD viewing.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: I found the image on this DVD to be good, but lacking in a few areas. Most noticeably, the print used for the transfer was only in fair condition. Here and there, scratches and specks will pop up, and in one scene near the end of the film, a vertical line remains on screen for several seconds. Other than that, color contrast looks good, and the sun-drenched California landscape looks appropriately saturated. Edge-enhancement is thankfully not a major problem, nor is artifacting. Black level is only fair, with the darker scenes looking a bit muddy and very grainy. In fact, the entire film has an overly grainy look, which may be intentional, but it still warrants a mention.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: Once again, Fox has provided both a DD 5.1 and a DTS track, but on this disc, I noticed little difference between the two. Perhaps bass sounds a bit more defined and natural on the DTS track, but the impact is negligible. Even so, this is still a very nice mix, if a bit more subdued than what you'd expect from an action film of this caliber. The dialogue is always clear and the action and music are well balanced, but there was far less dynamic surround use than I was expecting. Aside from the major action scenes, this mix is very front-heavy (but the front soundstage is nice and wide, making up some of the difference). Bass level is fairly good, but nothing will threaten to knock things off the wall.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Chain Reaction, Big Trouble in Little China, Unlawful Entry
Layers Switch: 00h:58m:32s
Extras Review: Extras consist solely of two theatrical trailers, a featurette, and the requisite "Fox Flix" trailer gallery. The featurette runs a minute longer than the preview, which shows just how in-depth and heartfelt it is. And wow, check out those trippy menus. Totally radical, brah.
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsI'm not a big Keanu fan by any means (I just don't see the allure of a bland non-actor as a superstar), but I'm willing to give props to his more or less successful body of work. Point Break stands with The Matrix and Speed as one of his better efforts. If you can get past the corny characters and some ludicrous dialogue, you'll enjoy this old-time action ride. They rarely make these kinds of films anymore, and certainly few are this entertaining.
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