Film review: Point Break – extreme-sports remake of surf-heist classic misses the point
Slick action and extreme sports, but where are the goofiness and hammy acting?
Nobody is craving meatball sandwiches in the new Point Break, a tragically misconceived remake of Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 surf/heist thriller. Ditching the cult favourite’s hammy acting, conflicted romance, high-octane cops-and-robbers action and extraordinarily goofy lines, this extreme-sports makeover by director and cinematographer Ericson Core is a technically accomplished movie that struggles mightily to replicate the original’s guilty pleasure.
Australian actor Luke Bracey plays young FBI agent Johnny Utah, the character which once saw Keanu Reeves break his affectless mould, fire a gun at the sky and shout, “Ahhh”. No such hilarity here. In place of the undercover cop who clumsily learned surfing and got a new nomadic lifestyle to infiltrate a gang of beach-bum criminals, the new film gloomily offers us a guilt-ridden extreme athlete who lost a friend off a cliff at a motocross racing event years ago.
If that sounds conceited, wait until you meet the misshapen villains. While Patrick Swayze’s philosophical ringleader Bodhi left an impression with his surfing obsession and playful bankrobbing tactics, the character here (played by Venezuelan actor Édgar Ramírez) is chasing such eco-nonsense as the mythical “Osaki Eight”, which was established by a now-deceased spiritual guru and constitutes eight extreme sports missions to “honour the forces of nature” and “achieve nirvana”.
But Bodhi and pals’ globetrotting pursuit for enlightenment doesn’t end there. In an effort “to disrupt international financial markets”, they’re also pulling a Robin Hood during some of these stunts, redistributing American wealth to the poor around the world in the process. In an early scene, two gigantic blocks of banknotes are made to rain on a Mexican village in a plane heist-turned skydiving mission. Puzzlingly enough, the robbers don’t appear to have kept a dollar.
The script by Ultraviolet (2006) writer-director Kurt Wimmer offers no solace to Point Break devotees. Johnny’s fiery veteran partner Pappas (Ray Winstone) functions essentially as his personal driver and travel agent, while his romantic interest (Teresa Palmer) is just that solitary hot girl he spots at Bodhi’s lavish boat party. More sacrilegious still is the characterisation of Johnny, who ended up scrapping his law-abiding rigidness in the 1991 hit, but who is here ironically all about earning his FBI badge.
By replacing the intense hold-up and raid scenes in Bigelow’s exhilarating cat-and-mouse game with visually striking snowboarding and wingsuit flying sequences that add zero sense of urgency to the central story, this is solid proof that dynamic sports footage does not make an effective crime thriller. Ordinary viewers will also certainly fail to appreciate the wisdom of Core’s disguising a free climbing session as the movie’s climatic chase, which makes laughably little sense.
In a less testosterone-fuelled world, someone in the studio should have the presence of mind to give this humourless eye candy another title. As it is, stick to the original unless you’re one big masochistic completist.
Point Break opens on December 3