Break (Pure Adrenaline Edition)
Sound: B- Extras:
B Film: B-
I have no interest in or knowledge of surfing, which obviously
takes great skill, but is way too a West Coast activity for a Pennsylvania
landlubber like myself. That probably explains my reaction to Kathryn
Bigelow's Point Break
(1991), a film I responded to almost identically the two times
I've viewed it 15 years apart.
Both times, I didn't particularly enjoy the first half of the
film, which features a good bit of surfing, but liked the second hour much
better, which contains a lot of non-surfing related action sequences.
In his first leading role in an action film, three years
before Speed would
make him a viable star within the genre, Keanu Reeves stars as a newly
graduated FBI agent and former college football quarterback named Johnny Utah,
whose first assignment takes him to Southern California, where he's partnered
with a gruff, but lovable FBI veteran named Pappas (Gary Busey).
One crime the bureau hasn't been able to solve is the robbery of
27 banks in three years by four elusive armed robbers calling themselves the
Ex-Presidents. Possibly inspired by the tense robbery sequence that
begins the excellent thriller Best
Seller (1987), where all the culprits wear Richard Nixon masks,
the Ex-Presidents wear masks of four former U.S. presidents during robberies,
Reagan, Nixon, Carter and LBJ.
The key to the Ex-President's success is only taking money from
the cash drawers up front, and never getting greedy enough to go for the big
money inside the vault, which would increase their time spend inside the bank,
and hence, their chances of getting caught.
But Pappas has a theory that the Ex-Presidents are a tight-knit
group of surfers, something none of his colleagues, besides Utah, will
believe. Utah then agrees to go undercover within the Southern California
surfing community in hopes of identifying the culprits. Of course, Pappas
is correct and the Ex-Presidents are indeed a group of surfers led by Bodhi
(Patrick Swayze), who orchestrates periodic bank robberies to fund the group's
beach bum lifestyle.
However, things get complicated for the 25-year-old Utah when he
falls in love with a surfer girl (Lori Petty), discovers that he's a natural
adrenaline junkie and begins to actually like Bodhi.
Bigelow, a female director who already proved she could direct a
horror film, 1987's Near Dark,
and an action-thriller, 1990's Blue
Steel, with as much
edge as any male, again shows great skill in staging energetic and imaginative
action sequences, some which are very exciting. Especially thrilling
is a car chase which eventually turns into a long foot chase. Unlike the
majority of action movies of today, which are ruined by the inexplicable
need to cut every shot down to 2 or 3 seconds, all of the actions sequences in Point Break are refreshingly
Bank robbing surfers is a unique, but undeniably silly
concept. However, Bigelow's adept handing of the action combined
with top-notch stunt work and some better dialogue than is usually
associated with the genre elevates Point
Break to guilty pleasure status.
Bigelow directed Point
Break during the two-year period in which she was married to
the film's executive producer, James Cameron. Ironically, though, Point Break had the misfortune of
getting released just one week after Cameron's own megahit, Terminator 2: Judgment Day in July
of 1991, which couldn't have helped Bigelow's film.
Fox's new Pure Adrenaline
Edition of Point Break
presents the film in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with both 5.1 and 4.0 Dolby
Digital sound, although a previous DVD edition contained a DTS track which we
did not review. Oddly, the 4.0 Dolby mix
is superior and does not whittle down the stereo dialogue to the center channel
like the 5.1 mix. Could the DTS have
been as bad? Only audiophile fans will
want to check that one out, labeled with DTS on the top if you can find a copy.
It is the extras, including 8 deleted scenes (most of which are very
brief), four featurettes, a still gallery and three theatrical trailers that
will be the main attraction for fans this preposterous, but entertaining film.
- Chuck O'Leary