I feel I have to open this review with a disclaimer: Unlike some of my more reactionary peers, I don’t find anything inherently criminal about remakes. Some of the most widely considered greatest movies of all time have actually been remakes. But 2015’s Point Break is emphatically not one of them though.
The Katherine Bigelow directed 1991 original starred Keanu Reeves as very Keanu Reeves-ish undercover FBI Agent Johnny Utah who gets in a bit too deep and friendly with a band of surfers/bank robbers led by the late Patrick Swayze’s charismatic zen extremist Bodhi. It’s a bromantic thriller filled with sizzling action sequences and memorable characters, and has gone on to become a cult classic for very good reason. It even inspired other vaunted filmmakers like Edgar Wright, who would parody the iconic “Keanu shooting at the sky” scene in his Hot Fuzz. And I would vehemently recommend you go watch that scene in Hot Fuzz again, as it’s actually a better remake than what writer/director Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium, Law Abiding Citizen) coughs up here.
Being 2015, surfing bank robbers is nowhere near intense enough, so now our criminal gang members are actually extreme sport poly-athlete eco warriors (It’s as if Wimmer merely reached into a bag of buzzwords and slapped a handful of them on the table and called it a day). These crooks, led by Edgar Ramirez’s Bodhi are on a quest of self-enlightenment and nirvana as they set out to complete the “Ozaki 8” – a list of eight extreme ordeals, spread around the world, to honor the forces of nature – while at the same time doing their best Robin Hood impersonation as they stick it to The Man in daring heists that leave authorities baffled.
The gang has already completed three ordeals on two different continents – along with the obligatory, almost physically impossible criminal endeavours alongside them – but the only one who cottons onto their plan is Luke Bracey’s Utah, a new FBI candidate who was himself a pro-extreme athlete before his insatiable appetite for the next rush led to a tragic accident that claimed the life of a friend. But Utah gets a break from his extreme moping, when FBI Training Instructor Hall (Delroy Lindo) realizes that Utah’s theory about this being one extreme athlete gang pulling off all these seemingly unrelated jobs might actually be worth looking into. Especially since Utah believes he knows where the fourth ordeal will take place: A freak wave off the coast of France.
Cue a gun and a badge for now rookie FBI Agent Utah, along with a new squinty pair eyes looking over his shoulder in the form of veteran Field Agent Angelo Pappas (Ray Winstone), as he gets sent to use his extreme sports reputation to infiltrate the gang, report on his findings and help try to bring them in. Or, you know, get enticed by their eco-philosophy and Bodhi’s zen rhetoric as they travel the world together, sparking a question of allegiance. One of those two.
What it also produces is the opportunity for Wimmer and his highly talented team of stunt men and real life extreme athletes to stage hugely elaborate and nightmarishly dangerous extreme sports sequences all over the globe, including a hair-raising wingsuit flight inches from death through a Swiss mountainside, a vertiginous snowboarding descent in the French alps, a sphinctre-destroying freeclimbing sequence in Venezuela that would make Tom Cruise blanch, and more. The stunts are so death-defying that you would be forgiven for thinking they had been cooked in a digital artist’s computer, but Wimmer has his team pull them all off for real, with some minor CGI assistance just rendered here and there to enhance the backdrops.
And the results are stunning… and stomach- and other usually static organs-turning, as performers snub their noses at the laws of physics over and over again (in the wingsuit flight, they reach speeds of over 230 kph as they flirt with being rudely introduced to the side of a mountain). And all of this is aided by the fact that the filmmakers really make fantastic use of 3D to throw in an additional dimension of pants-wetting terror to their antics.
Unfortunately, nowhere near the same level of filmmaking effort can be found anywhere else in this endeavour. Wimmer’s dialogue is often painfully clumsy – I dare you not to cringe when a character explains the very title of the movie to the audience – and his directing when nobody is clinging to life by their fingernails is rote at best.
The bromance between Utah and Bodhi – the charismatic glue that held the original film together – is also presented laughably and completely unconvincingly here. Luke Bracey, much like he’s been in some of the other films Hollywood falsely believes is positioning him as the next big thing, ends up as a next big nothing. A walking void of charisma and likability. And the usually good and enlivened Edgar Ramirez seems to have mistaken zen serenity for somnambulism as he turns in a sleepy performance that won’t convince anybody to jump off a cliff with him.
Oh and Theresa Palmer is also in the movie, but that’s about the only thing I can actually say about her character Samsara, as she’s nothing more than an exotic name and some eye-catching tattoos. And veterans Delroy Lindo and Ray Winstone also fail to add much, which really is the story for most of this tepid remake.
As an ad for the jaw-dropping, gravity-defying wonders of extreme sports, Point Break is fantastic. As a movie though – even more specifically as a remake of a much beloved movie – it’s an extremely poor showing.
Last Updated: January 6, 2016
January 6, 2016 at 15:52
HAHA! So, one for VR then…