I've enjoyed both of director Kathryn Bigelow's major features - both this 1991 action thriller and the bigger budget (although unfortunately, largely ignored) 1995 sci-fi thriller "Strange Days", which featured a great performance from Ralph Fiennes. "Point Break" stars Keanu Reeves as Johnny Utah, a former football player who has joined the ranks of the FBI and has been assigned to Los Angeles.
They've been attempting to catch a group of bank robbers who have escaped capture called the "Ex-Presidents". Utah and partner Pappas (Gary Busey) find evidence that suggest that the group could be surfers on their spare time, and Utah is sent undercover to try and catch the group. A local surfer, nicely played by Lori Petty, is able to teach him surfing well enough so that he can find acceptance in the community where the criminals may be hiding. He finally runs into one of them - Bodhi(Patrick Swayze) who, along with his band of surfers, robs banks during the off-season to support their surfing as they seek out the perfect wave.
There's something about Bigelow's visual style for both of these films that really does a great deal to engage the audience. Both pictures have found the director paired up with excellent cinematographers (Matthew Leonetti in "Strange Days" and Donald Peterman in "Point Break") who really are not afraid to run right into the middle of the action. This is part of the reason that the film is as effective as it is, as most of the picture is rather noticably cliched and predictable. It also is a bit long at a few minutes short of 2 hours; some editing could have made this a tigher, even more exciting picture.
The performances aren't bad, but they aren't fantastic, either. Busey does a fine job playing the kind of character he always plays. Reeves plays a lite version of the character that he played in "Speed", as well (thankfully, his acting has gotten better in the years since). Swayze is the one who gets into the character the most as the zen-following Bodhi. Lori Petty also turns in a nice supporting performance.
Overall, it's a film that probably wouldn't have worked as well had it not been directed by Bigelow, who has shown herself over the years to be an excellent and talented director of action pictures, able to use visuals to get the viewer directly into the scene.
VIDEO: "Point Break" is presented here in a new 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. Although it isn't quite as great looking as some other recent catalog titles from the studio, most of it looks good enough so that I'm satisfied overall with the release. Sharpness and detail are pretty good; although some scenes look rather soft and flat, the majority of the film looks pretty well-defined.
There are some minor problems throughout the film, but they never became seriously annoying or even that irritating. Some print flaws pop up now and then, such as minor marks and speckles. These are not visible consistently throughout the film, but do come up infrequently. The film is a noticably a little grainy at times, but that could be intentional from the cinematography by Don Peterman ("Get Shorty", "Men In Black"). I didn't notice any edge enhancement or pixelation.
Colors are rather subdued throughout the picture, seemingly by intention, but they still seem accurate and well-rendered throughout the movie, with no flaws. Flesh tones also were accurate and natural. Not a fantastic picture in terms of quality, but still pretty decent.
SOUND: "Point Break" is presented in both Dolby Digital 4.1 and DTS 4.1. The film does a decent job at presenting the material, but don't go in expecting an agressive assult on the audio front. The film's rock soundtrack and score do open up nicely and are moderately enveloping, but there's not that much activity beyond that.
The mono surround track does get some moderately effective use, but not consistently. Decent bass comes into play during the surfing scenes, but that's about it. Dialogue and music were both very good in terms of quality, but like the image quality, not remarkable.
MENUS:: Menus are non-animated, with very basic images serving as backgrounds.
Trailers: Teaser & Trailer for "Point Break" as well as trailers for "Big Trouble In Little China", "Chain Reaction" and "Unlawful Entry".
Featurette: Basically an extended trailer.
Final Thoughts: I don't think it's a fantastic film or DVD, but both sides of the equation are very good, and "Point Break" is recommended, especially at Fox's $22.98 (and less at most stores) retail price for the title.
The Film *** 1/2
Video 86/B = (344/400 possible points)
Audio: 84/B = (336/400 possible points)
Extras: 70/C- = (210/300 possible points)
Menus: 70/C- = (140/200 possible points)
Value: 82/B = (246/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: *** 1/2
DVD GRADE: B-