Saturday, February 19, 2011


I found this old review I wrote for Film Fanaddict a few years back and quite enjoy it.

Published by Film Fanaddict on 2006/10/30

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

DVD has been both a curse and a blessing. A blessing because, for the most part, you can finally see movies at home with clarity and proper aspect ratio. Another DVD blessing is all those extras – commentaries, making-of documentaries, special effects reels, gag reels, isolated soundtracks.

But this blessing is also the digital form’s biggest curse. Let’s face it; the majority of the movies you see are mediocre if not down-right shitty. But just about every movie released on DVD includes tons of extras, no matter how much of a piece of crap it is.

For instance, take Tim Burton’s remake of PLANET OF THE APES. Now this disc has over 13 hours of extras, including dazed audio commentaries by Burton and music score composer Danny Elfman. I’m not saying Burton’s remake is horrible or anything but, for Christ's sake, the commentators act as if this thing was CITIZEN KANE.

This brings me to POINT BREAK – the “Pure Adrenaline Edition” DVD. Not boasting as many hours of extras as Burton’s PLANET OF THE APES, there’s enough here to make you think POINT BREAK was one of the gnarliest action adventure surf films ever to stoke the pipeline. And every pseudo-documentary (there are four) on this disc has an interview where either the writers (story by Rick King, screenplay by W. Peter Illif) or Gary Busey or Patrick Swayze or Lori Petty postulate about how important this film is - as if it’s the pantheon of surf cinema (suspiciously missing in the docs are both the film’s star, Keanu Reeves and POINT BREAK’s director, Kathryn Bigelow).

But – and this I can say with confidence – POINT BREAK works as a great example of early 90s action cinema. Packed frame-to-frame, POINT BREAK doesn’t let up. It’s in a constant state of motion – fast, furious, heart pounding and joyously ridiculous.

POINT BREAK may be about a merry band of surfers (led by head surfer-dude Bohdi played with bravado by Patrick Swayze sporting wavy, sun-kissed hair) who rob banks wearing masks of ex-presidents (in fact, they call themselves the “Ex-Presidents”) for the rush and some surfing cash. Or it may be about the two FBI agents, Johnny Utah (Reeves) and Angelo Pappas (Busey) – both of whom are amazingly dumb – who run them down. But what it’s really about is filming action, which is Bigelow’s specialty. If you have any doubts, check out NEAR DARK’s bar scene.

One incredible set piece in POINT BREAK is the car/foot chase with Utah going after Bohdi (who wears a Ronald Reagan mask), behind alleys, backyards, inside houses, on the streets and over fences. It works like a car chase complete with crashes and spills. But the star of this sequence is the steadicam thanks to cinematographer Donald Peterman, who thrusts the viewer smack in the middle of the action, almost getting pummeled along with Utah and Bohdi.

Another amazing scene takes place in the sky and it isn’t the first skydiving sequence that’s the real mind blower, it’s the second one. While watching this scene – as Bohdi flips out of an airplane – you can’t help but wonder how this was shot. Swayze, it is said in the disc’s extras, actually did jump out of a plane for this scene and there are no cuts from his leap to the skies that say otherwise. That’s how into this film Swayze was –trying to break free from his DIRTY DANCING-cum-GHOST days.

But the realism is shot to hell when Utah jumps out of the plane after Bohdi – without a parachute! Yet Bert Lovitt and Howard Smith’s editing is so slick that you can’t help getting caught up in the insanity of it all.

Not surprising, the dialog almost always tanks. Most of the lines read by the actors aren’t acted, they’re yelled. At maximum volume. In your face. Piled on dumb and dumber. Pappas to Utah: “Listen you snot-nose little shit, I was takin' shrapnel in Khe Sanh when you were crappin' in your hands and rubbin' it on your face.”

Utah to Bohdi: “I…AM…AN…F…B…I…AGENT!”

Bohdi to his friends: “We are here to show those guys that are inching their way on the freeways in their metal coffins that the human spirit is still alive.”

Bohdi’s lines are dime store philosophy at best and even his name is short for “Bodhisattva,” a being with the determination to aid others on their quest for the highest state of development, in order to reach the enlightenment of the Buddah.

And, as far as I know, a true Bodhisattva isn’t going to put on a Nixon mask and rob banks to help liberate sentient beings from their chains of materialism.

So if you are determined to find that tubular state of Buddah in surf cinema, try Bruce Brown’s 1966 doc THE ENDLESS SUMMER. Or John Stockwell’s BLUE CRUSH, which says more about female determination than the false sense of masculine enlightenment buried by the hyper-machismo found in POINT BREAK.

But if you like your action over-the-top, POINT BREAK is pure adrenaline.

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