It’s no wonder that Warner Brothers canned the remaining press screenings of Point Break and moved the embargo break date to Christmas Day. They want to bury the reviews for this remake-gone-amok in a festive avalanche of holiday cheer. So long as word doesn’t get out that Ericson Core‘s completely unwarranted remake of Kathryn Bigelow‘s action-packed breakout hit is indeed a completely unwarranted remake, they might still stand a chance of picking some unsuspecting pockets.
That’s not to say that this “extreme sports” version of Point Break is entirely a garbage product. In fact, those looking to turn off their mind and take in some sporting smut will likely leave satisfied enough. Sure, it’s highly caloric cinematic junk food, with a mind-numbingly dense narrative center about the philosophy of “lines” (more on that later) that adds absolute nothing to the original but, well, that works for some people. Beware though, in many ways, Point Break is the most flagrant kind of offender in this modern day remake turnstile in that it isn’t a makeover so much as a botched plastic surgery. Aside from the bouts of extreme sports on display, there is nothing here to warrant a do-over. Plus, Bode Miller has already cornered the market for videos of snowboarders riding off cliffs and such so just go watch one of his films instead.
And perhaps Point Break ought to be evaluated on the same rubric as a Bode Miller “film”. Were it to be judged purely on its stunt work, high praise would judiciously be piled at the feet of Core’s excessive, thick-skulled remake because they are technically quite impressive. There are a number of appropriately righteous sequences that vices the viewer’s gonads and twists hard. You’ll feel your tummy gutted as the crew rides over mountain spines or launches themselves off crevices.
Take the middle of the film as an example of its frequently superb showmanship. It features a stunning flight suit sequence that pits four of the film’s unnervingly grating anti-heroes against gravity itself. Like cement falcons falling through space, the squadron rage against nature and Core (who also did the cinematography) zips his camera admirably alongside. Evident from the smart, active camerawork in these scenes and the convincing stunts taking shape in front of the camera is the fact that Core collaborated with real world-class athletes, recruiting the best extreme professionals around the world to aid him in getting the high-octane stunts burned onto celluloid for your viewing pleasure. Or whatever it is you derive from this kind of film.
The problematic groundhog that pops its head up time and again is that although these extreme sports spectacles are as thunderstruck as the YouTube clips that inspired them (and, somehow, I don’t mean that as an insult), they’re sandwiched between terrible set-ups and even worse post-action philosophizing. Which brings us back to this whole “line” business. Time and again, the script hits on the philosophy of man and nature with a kind of catatonic jock-shock mentality that shoe-ins in some of 2015’s most pitiful dialogue.
The script, from Kurt Wimmer (the manuscript molester behind the awful Total Recall remake), features dialogue like “The minute he took that line, it wasn’t your line anymore. It was his line!” to defer guilt over a lost compatriot. Other characters find the need to add on to this “line” business: “I don’t see lines. I see truth” as if this means anything beyond the blatant burning trash dialogue it is. To some though, the “line” is all that matters. Peering off a cliff at a particularly gnarly line, one character mutters of the sheer depths below, “That’s death…but it’s also perfect.” If you could only tune down the dialogue and crank up the dubstep, it would make for a suitable YouTube clip. As is, it’s 15 minutes of thrills stuck in the swamp lands of Wimmer and Core’s dead-brained narrative.
The story refurbishes many story elements from Bigelow’s version, with anything from the names of the duo at its center to their signature moments up for grabs. Luke Bracey, as charmless and forgettable a lead as they come, plays extreme-sportsman-turned-FBI-agent Utah (originally played by Keanu Reeves) while Édgar Ramírez plays the extreme-sportsman-turned-criminal Bodhi (originally played by Patrick Swayze). Both are borderline awful, a fact that stands out especially when Point Break mimics its source material without contextualizing what made those original moments matter. Bracey’s iconic unloading of his pistol into midair is one of the most egregious offenders of this remake’s tendency to laziness and imitation.
Almost worse is the fact that there is no attempt to make the actions of the “villains” internally consistent with anything else we learn about them. At one moment, they’re a kind of nuevo-hippie Yodas humming about inner peace and becoming one with the world around them. They commit crimes to give back to those who’ve been wronged by society at large like tatted-up Robin Hoods. A few scenes later, without any internal change prompts, they’re willing to slaughter innocent people without thinking twice. All for some dough or whatever. Just one of many examples of the thoughtlessness put into this sloppy duplicate. But when you’re more concerned with the stunts than the characters performing them, that is bound to happen.
CONCLUSION: Impressive stunt work helps mask the ghastly script and awful performances present in 2015’s version of Point Break, making for at least one reason for this completely unnecessary remake to exist. But this YouTube-age action movie is probably best experienced as just that: a YouTube “best of” clip.