Point Break (1991) - 4K Ultra HD Blu-rayOverview -
Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves ride the waves for one of the coolest action thrillers of the 90s, Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break. Produced by James Cameron, this stylish thriller was a staple of rental shops and home video for a generation of film fans - and now it finally comes home to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from Shout Select. The film’s unique subdued photography may not leap off the screen in 2160p, but it scores with a lovely Dolby Vision grade while relying on the same audio mix of discs past. Recommended
"The Action – Surfing, Football, Fistfights, Gunfights, Bank Robberies, Car Chases, Skydiving – Never Lets Up!" – Los Angeles Reader
Hang ten and hang tough, Johnny. Rookie FBI agent Johnny Utah is learning to ride the waves. His mission: infiltrate a group of extreme surfers who may be the bank robbers known as the Ex-Presidents, and whose MO includes wearing masks of former White House denizens. Keanu Reeves portrays Johnny, Patrick Swayze plays charismatic thrill seeker Bodhi, and Oscar®-winning* director Kathryn Bigelow delivers an adrenaline rush of gnarly rides, skydives and danger in Point Break!
*2009: Best Achievement in Directing, The Hurt Locker; 2009: Best Motion Picture of the Year, The Hurt Locker
DISC ONE (4K UHD):
- NEW 4K Restoration Of The Film From An Interpositive
- In Dolby Vision (HDR 10 Compatible)
- Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.0
DISC TWO (BLU-RAY):
- NEW 4K Restoration Of The Film From An Interpositive
- Additional Scenes
- Four Featurettes: “It’s Make Or Break,” “Ride The Wave,” Adrenaline Junkies,” And “On Location: Malibu”
- Still Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
Some movies are just damned difficult to review. Not necessarily because they’re bad or good, but because there just isn't a lot to say about it that' can't be summed up in a single word. Case in point, Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break is just “cool.” That’s it. It’s a cool movie that thrives on 90s coolness featuring a cool cast of cool actors doing cool shit on cool surfboards. It’s a cool thriller about a cool FBI agent going after a cool gang of adrenalin-junkie bank robbers who call themselves The Ex-Presidents… which is pretty damn cool.
Alright, enough with the “cool” talk, I’ll do my best now to dive into this thriller and why its popularity endures. In my opinion, a big piece of the puzzle of why this film works so well is director Kathryn Bigelow. Throughout her career, she pinned herself to any number of high-charged thrillers and action films. Near Dark (where the hell is the 4K of that?), Blue Steel, Wild Palms, and Strange Days - are all excellent examples of her deft touch behind the camera in a genre traditionally dominated by men - like her then-husband James Cameron. Her later efforts like The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, and Detroit show she hasn’t lost her touch this side of the millennium.
Another reason why this film worked so well for its era is the cast. On one side of this crime thriller, you have young Keanu Reeves as Special Agent Johnny Utah on his career upswing. He had just done drama in Parenthood and comedy in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and was prime meat for the Hollywood action movie grinder. He had a lot to prove as an action movie lead and he leaned into it. On the other side, there’s the late great Patrick Swayze at his peak as the cool-as-ice Bodhi. Coming off three of his best films with Road House, Next of Kin, and Ghost, he was still a box-office draw before his 90s slump.
Both actors were perfect pairing as men on opposite sides of the law. I’ve seen it written many times that their character dynamic is less of cops and robbers and more of a subdued romance, and that aspect isn’t hard to miss. In modern parlance, Swayze’s Bodhi would be the Manic Pixie Dream Bro to Reeves’ straight Johnny Utah. Not resting all of the weight on these guys' shoulders, the rest of the cast steps up nicely. The pre-crazy turn from Gary Busey is one of his few grounded mentor roles and he fits it well. Lori Petty was a spitfire early in her years making her casting in Tank Girl an obvious no-brainer. Then you have John C. McGinley as Reeves and Busey’s boss delivering his signature pissed-off mockingly-authoritarian persona with glee.
While the cast is great with a slick story to play on and a great director behind the camera, the film’s eternal “cool” factor largely hinges on the stylish cinematography from the late Donald Peterman. No matter the time of day, the film almost always looks like it was shot during the magic hour when the sun is only so high in the sky meeting that beautiful balance of light and dark and the orange-red shadows in between. Couple that with some brilliant slow-mo surfing photography, and you have one heck of a great-looking movie in front of your eyes.
As I pile on the praise, I’m not blind that this isn’t a perfect film. It has faults throughout, mostly stemming from the overly simple plot and character dynamics. It’s no Heat, I’ll just leave it at that. Faults aside, it’s a fun film with pulse-pounding action sequences and an accessible story. That foot chase remains one of the most intense action sequences of the 90s for good reason! The film is so uncomplicated that it doesn’t matter where you pick it up, you can sit down and enjoy the rest of the show without missing a beat. That may be a detriment to an average action thriller, but with the talent involved in front and behind the camera, it’s actually something of an asset. As a fan of the film, I wouldn’t go so far as to pedestal it as one of my all-time favorites, but it’s one I enjoy a lot and admire. It wouldn’t be the first film I pull off the shelf but you’d never see me turn down the offer to watch Point Break. The remake, well, that I can skip. Not the worst remake ever but once was enough.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Point Break chases down its first 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release in a new two-disc set from Shout Select. Pressed on a BD-100 disc with a BD-50 handling the 1080p edition, the discs are housed in a standard black amaray case with an identical slipcover. The discs open to a standard menu screen and navigation options.
Reportedly sourced from new 4K scans of the interpositive with Dolby Vision HDR, Point Break looks terrific - for what it is. Now I’m not sure why the negative wasn’t available, I’ve heard conflicting things from being lost to held by a producer (which sounds like bull to me) to it simply not being in a sourceable condition without major expensive restoration efforts. Whichever the reason may be, the Interpositive is the next best possible source. Details are greatly improved over the previous DVD and Blu-ray editions giving more clean lines and textures. The Dolby Vision grading maintains that “magic hour” golden/red/orange lighting while enhancing shadows and black levels - especially for the night scenes or the day-for-night surfing scene.
Now, this film doesn’t exactly leap off the screen in 4K. Some of that I suspect has to do with the source elements, but also Donald Peterman’s cinematography choices. The film uses a lot of filters and specific lenses to capture a number of the outdoor beach scenes. Then you have several sequences with that smoky haziness as if the crew lit up a bunch of stogies inside and let them burn down to the nubs before shooting started. Between the lighting scheme, lens, and filter choices, I have a hunch that even if the negative were sourced for this transfer it wouldn’t look strikingly better. Now for "normal" scenes like the daylight raid on the biker gang or the iconic foot chase, those sequences are prime examples of how great this transfer really is. Details are sharp, and clear, with a natural film grain, and Shout nicely maxed out this disc letting that bitrate ride high so the visuals never falter. Perhaps not demo-worthy compared to some other catalog releases of the era, but for this film, it’s a welcome upgrade.
On the audio side, I’m happy but not exactly overwhelmed by the return of what sounds like the same DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. It’s a solid track when it wants to be but for large portions of the film, it feels very flat and front/center focused. Surrounds really only engage for the big action sequences, anytime someone is surfing (which is thankfully pretty often) or the big skydive climax. Dialog is still clear without issue. Flipping on my receiver's DTS Neural:X function helped a little bit but it didn’t really dramatically improve the range. I’d be curious to hear a larger object-based mix someday if or when one becomes available.
On the bonus features front, this release of Point Break is content with riding the recycling wave of archival materials. Which isn’t a bad thing necessarily. All told we have about an hour’s worth of content. The separate featurettes may be brief but they cover some good ground and give some insight into the show. It’d been cool to get some retrospective interviews with Reeves or Bigelow as this film serves as something of a career marker for both talents. That said, seeing the old material come back is nice too.
- It’s Make Or Break (SD 23:03)
- Ride the Wave (SD 6:08)
- On Location: Malibu (SD 8:32)
- Adrenaline Junkies (SD 6:01)
- Additional Scenes (SD 4:35)
- Image Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer 1
- Theatrical Trailer 2
- Theatrical Trailer 3
As I said at the outset, Point Break is a cool movie steeped in coolness and so many years later can feel like it always knew it was a cool movie. Is it a great film? Probably not, but, I would say it’s a damned entertaining flick. Back in the day if you were channel surfing and you found Point Break, it’s not like you were going to keep looking, right? You found a great flick to pass the time with two of the hottest stars of their respective generations with top-tier action sequences all captured with some amazing cinematography by a director who knew how to make a kickass flick. On 4K, the film may not exactly leap off the screen but this is a healthy respectable upgrade over past releases leaning into the stylized photography with clean details and a naturally cinematic appearance. Audio and extras don’t see much of an upgrade but they were pretty good to begin with. If you’re a fan or need this in the collection - Recommended
Order your copy of Point Break on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Edward Zwick's Glory 35th Anniversary 4K UHD Limited Edition SteelBook Arrives on June 4By:
Turbine Reissues 3-Disc Pitch Black Director's Cut 4K UHD Set with Their World-Exclusive Atmos Audio Feb 29thBy:
Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West Coming to 4K UHD May 14By:
Brandon Lee's "The Crow" Ascends to 4K Ultra HD May 7thBy: