Point Break is a fairly intense action thriller from the good old days. Yes, that’s right, the early '90s. This was a time where fashion could be hideous but the victims still deemed popular, and where Hollywood violence wasn’t such a large issue. Probably best of all, special effects did not rely on computers.
Hollywood violence has been a hot topic of debate over recent years, with current action films lowering visual violence and removing some of the blood. 1991 was before these times, and director Kathryn Bigelow embraces this with full force. In recent films when someone gets shot, a small red blood stain appears. But in Point Break, someone gets shot and we see the blood splatter. Literally. Graphic violence is really extreme, and seems slightly out of place given our muted celluloid entertainment. This M rated film is a very rough beast, which could easily be rated MA for violence and language. Speaking of which, the number one uttered word in this film would have to be the 'f' word. This is quickly followed by a more polite word then more 'f'-ing, umming and 'f'-ing. So even though it has been rated M, make sure that the kiddies don’t get this one or you may be having some 'f'-ing entertaining dinner conversations.
"Look, half of my Tank Girl costume is here already..."
Lori Petty is definitely up for the “crimes against fashion award” with some terrible late-’80s styles. Torn off short-shorts, stretchy backless Lycra tops and disgustingly coloured hair just start the ball rolling. And this is in the first 15 minutes. To put it no other way, this is really just a 120-minute excuse for stunts, but we still have a slightly original story thrown in with enough tension to keep us on the edge of our seat. Stunts look realistic, with great skydiving sequences, intense lawnmower action and some great surfing scenes. And this is coming from a young man who isn’t into surfing and skydiving. Even though the movie-making magic is obvious, it still looks great.
Keanu Reeves stars as Johnny Utah, a rookie FBI agent who is assigned to track down the Presidents – an elusive gang of bank robbers in California. But suspicions lead towards a group of surfers, and Utah’s senior partner (Busey) dobs him in for undercover work, where he must lose the suit and adopt a surfboard. He then meets Tyler (Petty), a waitress and Bohdi (Patrick Swayze), an adrenaline junkie who will do just anything for a hit. But as the case unfolds, the pointing finger starts to wander and true personalities are seen, forcing Utah to make some of the most breaking choices of his life...
This widescreen presentation is a superb transfer from Magna, and a great representation of a film from 1991. The 2.35:1 aspect is preserved with this anamorphically
The birth of The Matrix - version 1.0
enhanced transfer, and is easy and enjoyable to watch. Colours are richly mastered, with a realistic appearance and solidly saturated tones. Blacks are solid, with no sign of low-level noise, and posterisation is limited to the odd occurrence. Shadow definition is adequate, but not terribly clear, yet it still doesn’t destroy darker sequences. Notably the surfing party sequence looks great, showing little-to-no low level noise, and a great clarity of the action on screen. The ever-present film grain sits over the top of the image, but doesn’t pose too big a problem. Film artefacts are minute and minuscule, and are basically the odd hair and scratch. Aliasing would have to be the biggest gripe, with some jaggedness attacking the otherwise beautiful picture, and no, it’s just not Keanu. At times, the picture lacks sharpness, for example just before Utah looks at the first version of The Matrix. This waiver in focus isn’t terribly distracting, but just fairly noticeable. So overall the video transfer is great, and a big step up from Magna’s earlier releases. This transfer is easy to watch, and a brilliant example of how to make an older film look fantastic.
Two glorious English soundtracks have been thrown in the mix on this DVD, both stomach-churning, bass-thumping 5.1 tracks, one in DTS and the other in Dolby Digital. During the theatrical release in 1991, the 70mm prints featured six-track
"Look, I'm so talented and can pull my "Speed" face on cue!"
Dolby stereo audio, and the 35mm prints featured Dolby-SR. Both tracks are great examples of richly dynamic soundtracks, but suffer slightly in the finer details. The DTS track features a pounding full-on sound that just jumps out of the speakers and builds a creatively busy and protruding soundstage, and doesn’t suffer from the harshness that DTS can sometimes hold. The Dolby Digital too is a fine example, but does lack the thrown-in activity of the DTS track. The subwoofer absolutely tears through the living room with a bumbling bone-rattling bassline, actively attacking the soundstage with drive, force and purpose. The surround channels are used effectively and strongly support the soundstage. So where is the downside? Well that is persistent and continuing throughout the film. The dialogue sounds very rough and raw, and hasn’t been cleaned up very nicely. It is like a really low quality SR track in the cinemas – crackly and cruddy. So as to which one is better, the DTS has a much more involving sound, but really it comes down to six of one, half a dozen of the other.
I'm gonna break this effing remote in a minute...
The 16:9-enhanced slightly-animated menus with audio are slick, and great, as we have come to expect from Magna. However, on the Philips 736K, the menu highlights don’t work - you have to push the arrow buttons so that the appropriate option would be selected, and push 'Enter' to get the menus to work. It’s just blind navigation. In a DVD-ROM drive, the menus are fine, but still very slow to respond. A 1:57 theatrical trailer is the limit of the extra features, not surprising given the age of the film.
Magna Pacific keep up their good reputation with a solid video transfer, two pounding audio tracks, a decent trailer, sexy menus and an energetic mindless action film. This is a great disc for fans, and for those in need of a good action flick. Yes, they still did exist in 1991.