Here in Los Angeles, there is currently an indie theater show running that's fast become a cult sensation, "Point Break Live." With a budget of about $12, a group of unknown actors recreates the film scene by scene (with much of the same dialogue, in fact), only ratcheting it up to such over-the-top extremes that it becomes high camp. They even go as far as to pick someone out of the audience each night to act out Keanu Reeves' part, feeding them their lines via cue cards, in a clever nod to Reeves' oft-derided wooden mannerisms.
Unfortunately, I made the mistake of seeing "Point Break Live" recently, without ever checking out the movie first. So now, having just finished watching the "real" 'Point Break' for the first time on Blu-ray, I just couldn't take the movie seriously. Perhaps the film was already a so-bad-it's-good cult phenomenon, but for me it was a hilarious, if admittedly well-made, action yarn that's so ludicrous it's hard to imagine it wasn't always destined to become a self-parody.
The story is pretty darn funny just as a plot synopsis. Keanu Reeves stars as FBI agent Johnny Utah (apparently, Johnny Alabama didn't have the same ring to it). He's young, green, and cocky. Assigned to go undercover to foil a syndicate of surfers who rob banks (seriously?), he weasels his way into the gang's inner ranks, eventually befriending the Mr. Migayi-like Bodhi (Patrick Swayze). Drawn into the "lifestyle," Johnny finds his allegiances torn, as he realizes he's eventually going to have to take down his newfound guru if hopes to retain his moral code and stay on the right side of the law.
'Point Break' recycles several themes familiar to any fan of crime and cop flicks. Johnny will find himself simultaneously attracted to/repulsed by Bodhi and his gang, setting up the age-old morality play of "we must become that which we seek to destroy." There's also lots of goofy surfer-speak and pseudo new age philosophy-spouting by Bodhi -- all this talk about loyalty and honor and freedom -- which sounds vaguely important until you realize it's just culled from a second-rate Oprah episode. (I expect a remake of 'Point Break' any day now, based on "The Secret.") There is also a very vague political subtext, particularly the eradication of libertarian ideals by capitalist forces, which is most clearly alluded to in film by having all of the gang wear masks of Republican presidents (Bush, Reagan et al). It's the film's only truly subversive touch.
As directed by Kathryn Bigelow, 'Point Break' is a highly kinetic and well-constructed action film. There is tremendous energy in just about every sequence, particularly the early bank robbing, and an entertaining airborne battle between Utah and Bodhi as they parachute to the ground. Reeves and especially Swayze also acquit themselves admirably in the lead roles. Reeves may be a limited actor, but he doesn't attempt more than the characterization requires, and in that way he's efficient. Swayze even makes his ridiculous dialogue sound vaguely plausible, which is some kind of accomplishment in itself. And the criminally underused Lori Petty, as a low-rung surfer who becomes the conduit between Utah and Bodhi, brings a well-needed boost of estrogen to the proceedings (in a role that today would probably have gone to Michelle Rodriguez).
If there is any problem with 'Point Break,' it's simply that the film is so cliched that it feels like a satire -- it's a bunch of borrowed parts bolstered only by great action and energetic direction. I'm sure that longtime fans of the film get a nostalgic kick out of watching it, but without benefit of a past viewing, today the film lacks any real sense of originality or surprise. 'Point Break' looks great, is never boring and provides lots of laughs, but does it mean anything, let alone have any lasting resonance? Not really.
Fox brings 'Point Break' to Blu-ray a couple of years after the special edition DVD release, and this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode appears to be from the same master. It's a nice catalog remaster, though unlikely to become a new demo disc.
The studio has cleaned up the source elements nicely, so the transfer has a smooth look. There is slight grain typical of films shot during the time period, but nothing excessive. Blemishes are minor, and blacks are consistently deep. 'Point Break' lacks the polished look of a recent action flick, with natural colors that never really grab the eyes, and nice fleshtones. Detail ranges from strong on close shots, to adequate on darker scenes. Shadow delineation is unfortunately a bit weak, with fine textures often lost and a somewhat soft look. The encode is sharp, however, as I noticed no real noise or motion artifacts.
Remastered in DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit), 'Point Break' holds up surprisingly well for an early-'90s action flick. The mix frequently impressed with it strong surround presence and hefty, powerful punch.
The rears are engaged with nicely done discrete effects, and some sustained ambiance (thanks largely to the well-integrated score). Granted, the "wall of sound" quality typical of top-tier high-res mixes is not present, but the film's relentless action is well supported by the rear channels. The level of low bass is also above average for a 1991 production, the same goes for the clarity of dynamic range -- the highs are a tad bright, but otherwise this is a warm and realistic mix. Dialogue can sometimes be obscured by the din, however, which is probably the track's weakest aspect, but all in all, I didn't expect a remaster this solid.
Fox first released 'Point Break' in a "Pure Adrenaline Edition" on standard DVD back in 2006. Those same extras have found their way to the Blu-ray, but it's not really a tremendous package. The sum of the material doesn't really add up to much, though kudos to Fox for at least spending some money to celebrate the film's cult appeal. (All extras are in 480p/i/MPEG-2 video only, and there are no subtitles that I could find.)
'Point Break' is a fairly ludicrous if well-made '90s action flick, one that has a nostalgic kick even if it has long since been relegated to camp. This Blu-ray should please fans, however, with nicely remastered video and audio, and some entertaining supplements. It's just too bad Fox keeps pricing their catalog releases so high, because if it wasn't for the $40 MSRP, 'Point Break' would be an even better deal.