Before earning a coveted Oscar for her critically acclaimed war time action-drama The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow directed an equally acclaimed but smaller scale crime film, Point Break. Developing an almost cult following over the years, the film will be released on Blu-ray for the first time in the U.K. from next week. Read on for our review. Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) lands his first job as a Special Agent for the FBI, after an intense training program. Partnered with Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey), an experienced agent who is more than committed to his work, they find themselves assigned to investigating a vast number of robberies committed by a gang known as the Ex-Presidents. Wearing masks of former Presidents Reagen, Nixon, Carter and Johnson for the robberies, very little is known about the group and practically no evidence has been found at the scenes of their in quick, out quicker crime sprees. From the only bit of evidence he has managed to recover (a tiny sample of wax), Pappas believes that the criminals might actually be a group of surfers. With Utah onboard with the theory, Pappas convinces him to go undercover as a surfer and try to dig up some dirt on the gang. Unable to surf, Utah has his work cut out for him as he tries to ingratiate himself with a beautiful and competent female surfer Tyler (Lori Petty) and her group of friends. With her help, Utah begins to earn the respect of her boyfriend and infamous local surfer Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) and the rest of his group. Forming a close bond with Bodhi and the group, Utah begins to suspect that these guys may actually be the Ex-Presidents. Will Utahs burgeoning friendship with the group and growing feelings for Tyler prevent him from doing the right thing and bringing the surfers to justice? Director Kathryn Bigelow demonstrates her immense talents for capturing expressive and impressive shots in this early surf/crime classic. Her ability to make the camera feel at one with the water in the surf scenes is intensely powerful. Perfectly capturing those riding the waves, viewers find themselves transported to beach. Similarly, Bigelows use of extreme close ups and tight framing during action scenes mean that viewers are also directly transported right into the middle of this too. For example, the huge fight between Johnny, Pappas and the gang suspected of being the Ex-Presidents is full on and the series of close ups catapult viewers into it in a way that very few directors can achieve. What this means is that Point Break is an extremely engaging and gripping film. The narrative is part surf action, part crime action: a combination that works well to create adrenaline rushes for audiences throughout. The tight framing means that the film can feel rather claustrophobic at times, but this also helps heighten tension and generate suspense. Whilst the film seems slow to start in comparison to many action films, once Point Break starts going it does so at break neck speeds. The performances are solid from the entire cast, with each main actor giving strong portrayals of their characters. Keanu Reeves is excellent in the role of Johnny Utah, a freshly employed FBI agent who learns a lot from his field experiences undercover and working a case. Reeves proficiently captures Utah's naivety at the beginning of the film and effectively demonstrates his character's growth over the course of the plot. Swayze manages to be likeable in a role that essentially sees him playing one of the villains. This makes it hard to turn against him even when he proves to be truly cruel towards the end of the film. Bigelow cleverly captures the humanity of the gang of surfers and Swayze in his role of Bodhi is a prime example of this. Gary Bussey as Utah's partner is both comical with his loud Southern rage, but also effective in his role as a dedicated FBI agent. The chemistry between him and Reeves is evident, even if it is a little stilted at times. Support from a host of other talent is also accomplished and helps bolster the lead performances.
QUALITYThe visual quality is generally very high, with only a small amount of grain afflicting some scenes. Close ups are the most clear, with minor details appearing crisp and clear (stubble and facial blemishes, for example). Attention to detail is noticeable in this upgraded transfer, with clarity far higher than any other previous release. Action in the foreground is predominantly Bigelow's choice for what's in focus and this is always sharp and highly defined. The colour scheme is vast and the dull muted tones of the police offices are greatly contrasted to the lush blue-green tones of the ocean in the surf scenes. The palette of the latter scenes is vibrant and warm, whilst the former is dingy and impersonal. However, both make full use of the high def transfer to be visually impressive. The quality of the audio is slightly less accomplished than that of the visuals. Dialogue is rather quiet and often overpowered by other sounds. In particular, the raging waters of the ocean prove to be too much for certain lines of dialogue, which occasionally get engulfed almost entirely. Action moments are quite often deafeningly loud, with gunshots making full use of the entire range of speakers to literally echo around the walls of your lounge. The musical soundtrack reflects the laid back, beach life of the gang of surfers, consisting of guitar rifts and anthems of eternal summer sun.
EXTRASAn impressive array of bonus material accompanies the film on this Blu-ray release. Viewers can look forward to enjoying the following: Additional Scenes These eight scenes are generally only slightly different from whats present in the final cut, with most an extended version of what made it. Occasionally differences are minute (such as literally a line or two of difference) or can simply offer slightly more insight into a character. The quality is far from fantastic here and its obvious that Fox were unable to (or simply not bothered enough to) upgrade these to high definition. Adrenaline Junkies, It's Make or Break, On Location: Malibu and Ride the Wave Featurettes These four brief features were evidently produced as one longer making of documentary (why they werent kept that way is anybodys guess, but it obviously makes the supplementary material seem greater with them split up..). Bringing together cast and crew, including Bigelow, Reeves, Swayze, Bussey and Petty, these are relatively light documentaries with little deep insight. However, they are entertaining and at least offer some insight into the production. The interviews are teamed with some brief snippets of behind the scenes action, so whilst they are not extensive these featurettes will certainly be of interest to fans and casual viewers alike. Theatrical Trailer Film: 4 out of 5 An engaging and entertaining action romp, Point Break combines thrills, excitement, suspense and comedy to create a memorable film that is both visually impressive and narratively accomplished. Visuals: 4 out of 5 Bigelow's creative direction looks spectacular on this HD release. Picture quality is impressive, with very little noticeable disturbance or grain afflicting the transfer. Audio: 3 out of 5 Dialogue can sometimes be hard to hear without the television turned up rather loud, especially when spoken during some of the more intense surf scenes or heavy action sequences. Apart from this, the sound makes perfect use of the full range of speakers through special effects and the musical soundtrack. Extras: 3.5 out of 5 A relatively solid collection of additional features are presented on this release, from extra scenes to four quite compelling and interesting featurettes that will please fans and first time viewers alike. Presentation: 2.5 out of 5 The front cover uses the typical image of Reeves and Swayze that's associated with the film, which whilst evocative of the narrative is slightly disappointing. A newer image would have perhaps given the Bluray release a fresher look. The menu is poor, with a very grainy copy of the same image used, but is at least easy to use. Overall: 4 out of 5 This entertaining combination of surf and crime film is just as appealing today as it was upon release. Engaging characters and a compelling plot make Point Break an exhilarating, adrenaline rush of a film! Point Break is released on Blu-ray next week.
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