Point Break (Blu-ray) (1991)

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Released 3-Aug-2011

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Adventure Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-Adrenaline Junkies
Featurette-It's Make Or Break
Featurette-On Location: Malibu
Featurette-Ride The Wave
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1991
Running Time 121:59 (Case: 117)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kathryn Bigelow
Largo Entertainment
Warner Home Video
Starring Keanu Reeves
Patrick Swayze
Gary Busey
Lori Petty
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $19.95 Music Mark Isham

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
French Dolby Digital 2.0
German Dolby Digital 2.0
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
Czech Dolby Digital 2.0
Polish Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     When I was between nine and ten years old a certain gentleman by the name of Patrick Swayze was the talk among multiple groups for varying reasons. Men of my father's age were jealous of him. Women of my mother's age would not shut up about him. Children of my age would make disparaging remarks about him. Admittedly, I did not think much of him because of the film he got his big break in (Dirty Dancing). Fast forward three or four years, and I am seeing him in a film to which James Cameron’s name is attached. Fast forward another nineteen years. Patrick Swayze has been dead for two years from a kind of cancer I cannot imagine the dread of being told one has. Director Kathryn Bigelow has won a long-overdue Oscar for a film I will just say is far from her proudest moment (in spite of having been quite well-made). And Keanu Reeves has pretty much remained Keanu Reeves. In that time, I have seen Point Break on three different formats. But this is the first time I have seen it on a format that does it the same justice as the theatrical exhibition (I went to see it twice, which was unusual for me in those days). More on that anon.

     Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) is a rookie FBI agent. During his first day of work, after being introduced to veteran partner Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey), he finds himself working on bank robberies being perpetrated by a gang calling themselves the Ex-Presidents. The Ex-Presidents are noted for their professionalism ("Twenty-eight robberies… and what do we get from it? One f***ing hair!"). Pappas' theory about the Ex-Presidents, one derided by colleagues, is that the Ex-Presidents are surfers. Hence, Johnny is sent to attempt to blend in with the culture and see if any of the local goons look like they rob banks in their spare time. At first, things do not go swimmingly for Johnny. But after some creative lying and old-fashioned detective work, Johnny bluffs his way into the confidences of a local surfie called Tyler (Lori Petty), who in turn introduces him to a local surf guru called Bodhi (Patrick Swayze). From then on, it is a basic cop-shoot-cop-shoot-robber type film, but only as Kathryn Bigelow does.

     As I intimated, I have seen this film on every home video format that has made an impact. So how does it scrub up on this one?

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Transfer Quality


     Point Break has seen as many distributors as home video formats, if not more. When first released on DVD, it was a Fox disc before the disc went out of print and was replaced by a Magna Pacific release. On Blu-ray, it appears to have been taken over by Warner Brothers. I only mention this because each transfer has appeared different to one degree or another.

     The transfer is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.40:1 within a 1920 by 1080 progressive window. Much of the film consists of sequences in which characters surf as a way of speeding along interaction and plot points. These sequences have always presented a challenge to home video formats. The element of moving water is one of the most fluid and unpredictable things you can put in front of a lens, so compression always needs to be handled carefully. This is a very sharp transfer with lots of detail standing out, in spite of that, and the surf sequences have never looked better. Shadow detail is about what one would expect for a twenty year old film, and there is no low-level noise.

     In contrast to other films I have watched lately, Point Break usually has a wide and open colour palette, only narrowing during a handful of sequences. Skin tones are pretty natural, and no bleeding or misregistration was noted. The transfer uses the AVCHD codec. The film was originally shot in Super 35, so some backgrounds appear a little more blurred than they probably should, but no definite compression artefacts were noticed. No aliasing was noticed, and the viewpoint/camera's eye seems remarkably stable, even during one extremely hectic chase sequence, which in itself is very much appreciated. In fact, let me give you a hint: Abrams et al: I felt much more involved in the action during this chase sequence than I ever will in your shake-the-view-like-its-blood-sugar-is-less-than-half-a-mo action sequences, ta very much. Film artefacts were very occasionally noted, and well within acceptable limits given the age of the film.

     Subtitles are offered in English for the Hearing Impaired. These are perfectly serviceable, without any significant omissions.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Technical information about how the film was originally presented in theatres with respect to sound is a little more difficult to come by. Given the era it was released in, Dolby Stereo is the most likely format. It shows occasionally.

     Unfortunately, there is no shortage of soundtracks on this disc, eight of them in fact. The first, and default, is the original English dialogue in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, bitrate unknown. Dubs in Dolby Digital 2.0 French, German, and Italian account for the next three tracks. Two Spanish dubs are also offered: one is Castilian Spanish, the other Latin Spanish. The first is 5.1, the second 2.0, and I do not know which is which out of that sub-group. A Czech dub is offered in Dolby Digital 2.0, and the last soundtrack is a Polish voiceover in Dolby Digital 5.1, which I listened to briefly for curiosity's sake.

     The important dialogue, the dialogue that keeps the story making sense, is perfectly clear and easy to understand. Some utterances during action sequences are a little more difficult to make out, but this is par for the course for a twenty year old film. The score music was composed by Mark Isham. Although it does not stand out remarkably, it adds to the film. As is common with the films with James Cameron’s name somewhere in the credits, the sound effects are loud and hyper realistic. So I think the score music's problem in context of this film is that it is just too damned subtle.

     As I said, the sound effects are loud and hyper realistic. Gunshots usually (but not always) sound like ten thousand tons of TNT recorded exploding whilst stuffed into one of those old-fashioned metallic trash cans. Feet hitting the ground from a six-foot drop sound like a shotgun. This was the case even with a Dolby Stereo soundtrack back in 1991 or so, and the dynamics of this lossless soundtrack preserve that perfectly. What the soundtrack does not do is create any new directional effects. Without the music or occasional environmental sound effect, the soundtrack really does tend to hang around the fronts. Within those limitations, this soundtrack is the best way to experience Point Break that has yet been offered. The subwoofer is used aggressively to supplement gunshots, car chases, and the music. Although it is not worked terribly hard, and some gunshots even come out surprisingly flat, it provides a nice bottom to the proceedings when all goes well.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Menu Audio

     The menu is static and themed around the iconic image of the gun-wielding Ex-Presidents. A decent amount of Chapter Stops are provided, and the layout is pretty straightforward, submenu selections aside. What is annoying about this menu, however, is the music that accompanies it. I do not know who listened to Mark Isham’s score and thought this crap would be appropriate to the film, but they are a walking case for research into improving cochlear implants.

     A small smattering of extras are present. None appear to be high definition, from a casual glance. Only one is really worthy of further dissection, for one reason...For the extras you can refer to the review of the all region Blu-ray here.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Based on the High-Def Digest review of the Region A equivalent, all that really separates the two discs is differences in language options. Unless you really want to hear an approximation of what this film sounded like in the same matrixed surround format that was used theatrically, there is no compelling reason to favour the Region A disc.


     There are two ways of looking at Point Break. The way I did not think of until I read it is on the High-Def Digest review, and I will not spoil that except to say that I totally agree with their basic position that the film is ludicrous in plot but well-made. I do not have the heart to tell them that until recently, that description applied to Bigelow’s entire résumé.

     Point Break is an old-fashioned detective story told in a decidedly unconventional manner. If nothing else, it provides exhibit A concerning why Patrick Swayze deserved a more spectacular career than he got. Even Keanu Reeves is better than his usual self here. This, along with Near Dark, shows that Kathryn Bigelow is among that rare class we call deserving Oscar winners.

     The video transfer is very good. The audio transfer is very good, although a little flatter at times than it should be. The extras are pretty minimal.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DMP-BD45, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic TH-P50U20A. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR606
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Wharfedale Xarus 1000 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, Wharfedale Diamond SW150 Subwoofer

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