Point Break: Collector's Edition (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stephen Bjork
  • Review Date: Dec 11, 2023
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Point Break: Collector's Edition (4K UHD Review)


Kathryn Bigelow

Release Date(s)

1991 (December 5, 2023)


Johnny Utah Productions/Largo Entertainment (Shout Select/Shout! Studios)
  • Film/Program Grade: A-
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: B
  • Extras Grade: B-

Point Break (4K UHD)



“100% pure adrenaline,” the tagline on the posters for Point Break proudly proclaimed back in 1991. That’s actually a quote from the film, even if it’s not a 100% accurate description of the film itself. Point Break certainly doesn’t deliver the kind of wall-to-wall action that the statement may seem to imply. Even the admittedly catchy high-concept description of the film doesn’t quite do it justice: it’s the FBI manhunt for a group of surfers who happen to rob banks on the side. That’s true enough on the surface, but it doesn’t really capture what’s going on underneath those waves. At its heart, Point Break is a meditation on the seductive nature of violence, embodied by a group of people to take things to the limit and beyond. It may not be 100% pure adrenaline, but it’s 100% about people who can only find out who they truly are while under the influence of that adrenaline.

That’s certainly what attracted Kathryn Bigelow to the project. W. Peter Iliff and Rick King’s script for Point Break had been bouncing around Hollywood for years, but it wasn’t until Bigelow came on board that everything finally came together. She was interested in exploring the nature of adrenaline junkies, and that actually fit perfectly into the wheelhouse of what she had already established in her previous films. After co-directing The Loveless with Monty Montgomery, she made her auspicious solo debut with the horror classic Near Dark, and followed it up immediately with the police thriller Blue Steel. Both films dealt with characters who are drawn into dark worlds by tempters who offer the allure of violence—or to be more precise, the allure of the personal power that violence can provide. Jesse in Near Dark doesn’t really want to be a vampire, but he still craves the acceptance of the vampire gang who has taken him into their midst. Officer Megan Turner in Blue Steel is someone who became a cop because she’s attracted to the empowerment that it offers, but she ends up having to face off against someone who embodies that lust for power. There’s an inherent love/hate relationship in both of these films, and that found its most perfect expression in the form of the ultimate in bromance with Point Break.

That bromance is between Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) and Bodhi (Patrick Swayze). Utah is a former college football player who joined the FBI after wrecking his knee, while Bodhi is the leader of a group of surfers who live life as close to the edge as they possibly can. Utah is assigned to a case involving a string of bank robberies, and his partner Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey) believes that surfers are involved. So, Utah goes undercover in an initially vain attempt to infiltrate that cloistered world. He eventually lies his way into the good graces of a local named Tyler (Lori Petty), and she’s the one who ends up introducing him to Bodhi. It’s love at first sight, though not necessarily in the homoerotic sense. As Tyler notes, there’s too much testosterone here, and these men are far too focused on their own masculinity to ever admit that their affections for each other might have deeper meaning. Yet Utah and Bodhi do immediately see something in each other, and their connection is the engine that drives everything in Point Break.

Actually, Bodhi sees something else about Utah, and it results in a scene that’s the key to understanding the whole story. During an impromptu beach football game, Utah chases down Bodhi and tackles him hard into the surf. The other members of Bodhi’s gang take offense at that and accuse him of going too far. Yet Bodhi is the one who puts them in their place, because he’s recognized Utah as a former star college quarterback (though he still knows nothing of Utah’s current career). Once the others find out, they’re aghast that they got in his face and they immediately apologize, because they realize that he’s one of them. Utah may always be an outsider to the surfing community at large, but he’s accepted by Bodhi’s group once they discover that he’s part of the Brotherhood of Adrenaline. Bodhi’s feelings about his new love are confirmed shortly after that when Utah refuses to back down from a fight with another local neo-Nazi surfer gang, and that gang quickly becomes the target of the FBI investigation.

Of course, Point Break isn’t just a bromance set on a beach, and Bigelow did indeed craft some truly memorable high-adrenaline action sequences for the film. There’s an extended chase scene that starts out in cars and ends up on foot, with Utah pursuing his quarry in and out of houses and back alleys in a residential area. Bigelow shot much of the foot chase using a PogoCam, which gives everything remarkable energy and momentum. Patrick Swayze also got into the spirit of things by doing his own skydiving stunts (much to the chagrin of the producers), and that really helps to sell the plausibility of the action even when it goes to implausible extremes. (The shot of him looking into the camera saying “Adios, amigos” before jumping out of the plane provided an iconic moment for the trailers.) Yet however well-crafted that the action scenes may be, they still serve the purpose of shaping the relationship between Utah and Bodhi that’s the heart of the film.

With Bigelow at the helm, that’s no accident. She’s a former painter who exercises tight control over the visuals in her films, from the way that the action is staged to the color palette for the costumes and production design (even the color of the surfboards, in this case). Everything that’s visible onscreen helps to define the story and the characters. It also doesn’t hurt that Point Break is so perfectly cast. It was the film that helped to establish Keanu Reeves as an action star, a fact that Speed would cement just three years later. Yet only Swayze could have personified Bodhi as well as he did. He fully embraced the spiritual side of the character, not just the adrenaline junkie. (The name is no accident.) Lori Petty is at her quirky best, and Gary Busey plays Gary Busey playing Pappas—he takes acting to the next level here. (“Utah, get me two!”) John C. McGinley also provides a perfect Establishment foil as the director of the local FBI office. (Watch for Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and an uncredited Tom Sizemore in small roles.)

Still, Point Break is Utah and Bodhi’s story. Everything else is just texture that serves to support their relationship. Bodhi is the guru who takes Utah to the edge and then past it. Bodhi passes his personal edge at the same time, breaking his own rules in the process, and that’s what finally ends up turning this bromance sour. Bodhi may have been sincere when he said “I hate violence,” but that also means that he’s lost touch with his own spiritual side. The seductiveness of violence still leads him astray, past the point of what Utah is willing to forgive. There may have been a future for them regardless of their own circumstances, but Bodhi’s choices eventually force Utah’s hand. Ultimately, Point Break isn’t an action movie at all; instead, it's a tragic romance. Johnny Utah may get his man, but he loses the man of his dreams at the same time. Perhaps it was never meant to be, but the Utah who walks off alone into the storm will never be the same. In breaking the case, he’s broken himself.

Cinematographer Donald Peterman shot Point Break on 35 mm film (in Super-35 format) using Panavision Panaflex cameras with a variety of spherical lenses, many of them with relatively long focal lengths in order to capture the action from a distance. Peterman shot the daylight exteriors on Eastman 5247 instead of the more recent 5248 because he didn’t want the vivid colors that the latter could produce. He preferred the lower-contrast, relatively desaturated colors of 5247 to recreate the generally overcast look of Point Break even when shooting in the harsh California sun, and he added Tiffen Ultra Contrast filters to further enhance that effect. Interiors and nighttime scenes were shot on higher-speed 5296 instead. (Note that Kodak has a bad habit of reusing the same numbering scheme over and over again, so the 1991 era 5247 and 5248 weren’t the same ones that they produced in the Fifties.)

The surfing scenes that were filmed on the ocean by Yuri Farrant, Ron Condon, and Bob Condon utilized Photosonics 4NL high-speed cameras with custom lenses and fiberglass housings (although some of the in-water shots used a spring-loaded Bell and Howell Eyemo camera instead). The skydiving sequences were filmed under the supervision of Kevin Donelly using custom 35 mm helmet cameras. Everything was framed for a common topline in order to facilitate eventual full frame home video transfers, but release prints were anamorphic blowups at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. (There were a handful of engagements that were blown up onto 70mm film instead, framed at 2.20:1.)

This version uses a 4K scan of an interpositive, cleaned up and graded in High Dynamic Range for both Dolby Vision and HDR10. There’s no information available regarding why the original camera negative wasn’t used, although considering that Largo Entertainment folded in 1999 and their entire catalogue was purchased by InterMedia in 2001, it may be that the negative simply isn’t available anymore. However, there’s at least one advantage to using an IP in this particular case. The wide variety of cameras and shooting conditions produced inconsistent results, so everything was color corrected photochemically under Peterman’s supervision. The IP would have represented the late cinematographer’s intended look for Point Break. (Of course, it would have been better to use scans from the negative with the IP as a reference, but beggars can’t be choosers.)

The results aren’t as sharp as a negative scan could have been, but there’s still plenty of fine detail on display. The grain has the softer appearance from the generational loss, but that’s not a bad thing in this case because 5247 was a grainer stock. It doesn’t look like any significant noise reduction has been applied; it’s just the nature of using an IP. The fact that the disc has been given a fairly robust encoding certainly doesn’t hurt, and there’s no damage to report. The HDR grade provides deep black levels with strong contrast during the nighttime scenes, although the daylight scenes can look a little flatter by design. Overall saturation levels have been pushed a bit in HDR, but rarely too far from Peterman’s intentions. The warm golden glow of the sunset sequences is a bit warmer here than before, and there are some ruddy flesh tones during those scenes, but it still seems appropriate. (The oranges in the fireballs during the gas station sequence are really lovely here.) This may not quite be a reference-quality transfer, but it’s still a great rendition of Point Break under the circumstances.

Audio is offered in English 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional English SDH subtitles. Point Break was released theatrically in Dolby SR, which would have been four channels matrix encoded into two. The 2.0 option on this disc does have encoded surrounds, so it appears to be the original theatrical mix. The 70 mm blowup prints offered six-track mag Dolby Stereo instead, but it’s not clear if that really was a different mix or else just a discrete version of the Dolby SR mix. The 5.1 option here doesn’t have split surrounds, so if it was derived from the 6-track mix then that was definitely based on the Dolby SR version to begin with. Either way, after running the 2.0 version through a decoder, the differences between the two are minimal—with one caveat. The surrounds may be slightly louder in 5.1, but they sound more natural and better integrated in 2.0. It’s possible that something has been phase shifted in the 5.1 surrounds that prevents them from blending properly with the front channels and/or each other. Everyone’s mileage may vary, but my recommendation is to opt for the 2.0 version and to make sure that you engage your decoder. Neither version offers significant deep bass aside from the 50-year storm during the coda, so your own choice will come down to whichever one sounds the smoothest and most natural to you.

The Shout Select 4K Ultra HD Release of Point Break is a two-disc set that includes a Blu-ray with a 1080p copy of the film, as well as a slipcover that duplicates the theatrical poster artwork from the insert. All of the extras are on the Blu-ray only:

  • Additional Scenes (Upscaled SD – 4:35, 8 in all)
  • Adrenaline Junkies (Upscaled SD – 6:01)
  • It’s Make or Break (Upscaled SD – 23:03)
  • On Location: Malibu (Upscaled SD – 8:32)
  • Ride the Wave (Upscaled SD – 6:08)
  • Theatrical Trailers (HD – 4:14, 3 in all)
  • Still Gallery (HD – 2:17, 26 in all)

The Additional Scenes are all mostly inessential trims and extensions, although one of them does provide the source for the line about “babes” that was in the trailers but not the final cut. Aside from the trailers and the Still Gallery, the rest of the extras are all brief retrospective featurettes that were originally produced for Fox’s Pure Adrenaline Edition Blu-ray from 2008. They combine newer interviews with the cast and crew, a few vintage interviews, and clips from the film. Keanu Reeves and Kathryn Bigelow are noticeably absent from the newer interviews, although they do appear via some of the vintage clips. Patrick Swayze did provide new interviews, however, joined by Gary Busey, Lori Petty, John C. McGinley, and others. (If these interviews were actually recorded in 2008, then Swayze had already been diagnosed with the pancreatic cancer that would take his life the following year.) Adrenaline Junkies is about the need for speed that drives the characters in the film (and at least one of the actors off the set, since Patrick Swayze was skydiving on weekends against the wishes of the production). It’s Make or Break is more of a making-of featurette, exploring the development of the script, the casting, the stunt work, and the legacy of the film. On Location: Malibu offers BoJesse Christopher (Grommet) and John Philbin (Nathanial) exploring some of the original shooting locations. Finally, the aptly named Ride the Wave focuses on the spirituality behind the surfing.

While some new extras would have been appreciated, at least this does collect every significant extra from previous editions, so it’s safe to get rid of any Blu-rays that you may own in favor of this one. Whether or not it’s worth upgrading will end up being a personal choice. This 4K presentation is definitely an improvement over Blu-ray, but it’s not necessarily a dramatic one since the negative wasn’t available. For fans of Point Break, though, this 4K UHD may be the only 100% pure adrenaline option.

- Stephen Bjork

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