“Point Break” is a tough one to figure out. Putting aside the obvious answer (m-o-n-e-y), I’ve wondered why someone would even attempt to remake Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 cult classic. Could a contemporary approach even capture the wacky ingredients which made the original such an over-the-top, fun movie of its time? In the case of this 2015 remake, not exactly.
Director Ericson Core and writer Kurt Wimmer take their version in a noticeably different direction. The outline is basically the same but with a much more dour and self-serious tone. Bigelow’s film had a subtle layer of humor which showed itself in the macho bromances, cheesy surfer banter, and of course Gary Busey. Core and Wimmer yank out all of that and the movie suffers for it.
Luke Bracey takes the Keanu Reeves role as Johnny Utah. He’s no longer an ex-college football star with a bum knee. Instead he is an extreme sports poly-athlete (still not sure what that means) driven to the FBI after a friend’s death. Edgar Ramírez (an actor I generally like) takes Patrick Swayze’s place as Bodhi, an extreme sportsman and environmentally conscience mystic who often waxes eloquently about his oneness with the planet (“We’re trying to save this place by becoming one with it.”)
Bodhi is a thrill-seeking Robin Hood who, along with his merry band of X Gamers, rob from corporations and spread their wealth to the poor. In between these illegal deeds Bodhi is attempting to complete the Ozaki 8 – a series of extreme challenges which honor the forces of nature. This is what puts Johnny on their trail. He goes undercover earning the trust of Bodhi and gaining sympathy for his cause. But as Keanu so elegantly put it in 1991 “I’m an FBI agent!” The same applies in this film which does complicate things a bit for Mr. Utah.
Unfortunately there isn’t much else to add. Storywise the new “Point Break” is pretty bare-bones. Hardly any time is spent trying to understand these eco-friendly renegades. All we get is goofy philosophizing meant to tap into their thinking. It doesn’t work. There are also plenty of brainless logic gaps that had me wondering how Bodhi’s crew had escaped capture for so long.
The same paper-thin treatment is given to the characters. In many ways they are never given a chance. Bracey’s brooding gets old and he’s rarely given a chance to do anything else. Ramírez tries his best to make Bodhi a mysterious and lively individual and at times he pulls it off. But the material never allows him to stretch the character past the scripts unfortunate limitations. We also get a wasted Ray Winstone performance. He takes on the Busey character minus any hint of humor. And get Teresa Palmer wedged in as the kinda, sorta love interest. Her character adds absolutely nothing to the story.
But while it lacks in story, its visual presentation exhilarates. The remake doesn’t strictly focus on surfing. And while I believe that hurts the story, it also offers a host of opportunities for Core to capture some truly incredible extreme stunts from around the world. From BASE jumping in the Swiss Alps to wall climbing next to Venezuela’s Angel Falls. These are some insanely extreme sequences in some of the planet’s most beautiful locales and they are visually astounding. Core’s background is in cinematography and you can certainly see it on display.
If only the story had been given that same level of care and detail. Instead little creative thought seemed to go into the actual story, and the changes they did make simply don’t work. I don’t need “Point Break” to be serious or thought-provoking. I want it to be fun, action-packed, and it must have a sense of humor. Nowhere beneath the remake’s pseudo-spirituality, philosophical babbling, and fake tattoos will you find the humor it desperately needs. It certainly looks incredible and that saves it from being a disaster. But that’s not enough to make it a good remake.
VERDICT – 2 STARS