Point Break’s release on Blu-ray is nothing if not timely. Exactly 20 years after it first graced cinema screens and hot on the heels of an announcement that it is set to be remade, we get to see it again in sharpened up HD and what a treat it is.
Although Swayze had already showcased his considerable action chops in Road House, Reeves was untried in this genre with little more than Bill & Ted, Dangerous Liaisons and Parenthood under his belt. The casting is perfect though, Keanu focussed and physical as Special Agent Utah, with that surfer-dude lilt of his at times spoiling some of his line delivery, but suiting his altercations with his boss superbly. Swayze meanwhile, part mystic spiritualist, part warrior, all adrenaline-aholic is spot-on. One of the few nuggets we find among the special features is that during filming he kept disappearing off to go sky-diving, despite the remonstrations of the producers that he wasn’t insured. The entire cast clearly had a blast, none more so than Swayze, who has perhaps never suited a role so well (maybe Dirty Dancing runs it close).
The plot provides a great way of linking together all of the beach-football, surfing, sky-diving, car chases and foot-races. What could so easily have been a flimsy premise, merely providing a mechanism for getting everyone out into the surf or up in a plane, serves instead to provide believable, coherent motivations and arcs for all of the characters, who see their respective stories through with none of those, “but why would they do that” moments that can so easily pull you out of what would otherwise be an immersive film-watching experience. We’ve seen Kathryn Bigelow handle a story of a close-knit group in Near Dark and a man who cannot resist a life-threatening thrill-ride in The Hurt Locker, so it will come as no surprise to hear that as a director she handles the character interplay, the action sequences and the machismo adroitly. Particular mention must be made of Reeves’ chase of Swayze (or at least his stunt double) on foot and a bungled raid on drug dealers by the Feds, both of which are thrilling, tense and visceral in a way modern pixellated action sequences just cannot hope to attain.
It’s easy to assume that everyone has seen it, especially given how it is riffed on in Hot Fuzz, but perhaps you have yet to have the pleasure. Certainly the prospect of an ill-advised remake should send us all scurrying to remind ourselves of the quality of the original, especially given that we get to enjoy the shimmering sun and glistening surf in immaculately polished HD. You can grab it now on DVD or Bluray and you really should.
Extras: As mentioned above, the HD transfer is beautifully rendered, making this well worth getting for that alone. Just as well, as the extras themselves won’t bring anyone running any time soon. There are four featurettes which feature most of the principals in some shape or form, though they all feel cobbled together from different sources and so lack any sort of coherent through-thread. Mostly it’s everyone saying what a great time they had, though we do get the occasional nugget of new information. Including that Gary Busey seems to be a little on the eccentric side of things. The deleted scenes are almost unwatchably low-res, but don’t add anything worthwhile, so perhaps no hard done there. Given that this could have been a 20-year anniversary special edition, with up to date retrospectives (and some sort of recognition of Patrick Swayze’s sad passing) and a director’s commentary, this will have to go down as a missed opportunity. Disappointing.