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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Heist > Point Break (Pure Adrenaline Edition)

Point Break (Pure Adrenaline Edition)


Picture: B     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 coherent.


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


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