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Point Break (remake)

tn_pointbreak15I got a good laugh when I went to see THE LAST WITCH HUNTER and they showed a trailer for the POINT BREAK remake. They’d been advertising it for a while, but this audience clearly didn’t know about it since they gasped and groaned in disapproval when the title came up. They knew that this was going too far to remake POINT BREAK, even though they didn’t know that a trailer about some guys robbing a bank wearing president masks and then an FBI agent who’s a surfer has a theory that the robberies are being done by extreme athletes and he goes undercover in the group but he gets too close to the guru-like leader whose name is Bodhi means this is a remake of POINT BREAK. They didn’t recognize it until the title.

But they’re kinda right. POINT BREAK cannot be duplicated. It can be ripped off and turned into a great series of movies about globetrotting street racer super-thieves, sure. But it has a unique power that’s a combination of a great/goofy premise, a script with a ton of funny dialogue, excellent sequences directed by the great Kathryn Bigelow at the top of her action game, incredible skydiving stunts and photography, a maybe-not-knowingly-funny performance by Keanu Reeves as surfer dude cop Johnny Utah, and most of all a towering performance of charisma and sincerity by Patrick Swayze, who (like Vin Diesel in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, actually) seems to truly, deeply believe the philosophy his character spews.

Of all those qualities, the only thing that can easily transfer to a remake is the premise, and that’s what they’ve done best with. Screenwriter Kurt Wimmer (who wrote THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, ULTRAVIOLET and SALT and directed EQUILIBRIUM and ONE TOUGH BASTARD) is a writer with some respect for a good genre convention, and he expands on the POINT BREAK concept in a pretty cool way. More than just surfers and skydivers, these guys are motocrossers, snowboarders and free climbers and this Johnny Utah determines that they are following an extreme sports quest called “The Ozaki 8,” eight possibly-impossible tasks to challenge your limits against nature, invented by some legendary guru of adventure sports and environmental activism who died trying to complete them himself. Each one has a poetic name with sort of a self improvement philosophical type of meaning to it and you’re supposed to give an offering after each one, such as stealing money and giving it to poor villagers, because this is all about making a point about saving the earth or what not.

I love it and I think the original Bodhi would too.

mp_pointbreak15The new Utah, Luke Bracey (Cobra Commander from G.I. JOE: RETALIATION!), has a fittingly bland hunkiness, closer to a Hemsworth than Keanu, and he’s made appropriately fake-cool by his many tribal tattoos. Unfortunately the trailer line “I believe they, like me, are extreme athletes” is not in the movie, but he does get to make presentations and speeches, trying to win over his instructor (Delroy Lindo – good to see him again) and get his disbelieving partner/chaperone (Ray Winstone in the Gary Busey role) off his nutsack. And there’s a line, I wish I wrote down what it was, but he uses the words “point” and “break” in one sentence, like “it’s the point where you break” or something like that. Good for him.

When the boss calls him Utah he corrects him – that’s a nickname they gave him, not his last name. That’s not necessary, but luckily the movie is otherwise un-self-conscious about treating absurdity with a straight face. The Ozaki philosophy is treated with reverence, the feats are untethered by realism, and the dark motivational tragedy in his past is a ridiculous motorcycle stunt. He jumps from an impossibly high cliff onto a tiny column of rock; when his friend who he pressured to do it too tries he skids off the edge, just like any reasonable person would expect. (I have no idea how Utah got down.)

As Utah predicts the pattern of robberies like he would themed killings in a Vincent Price movie he’s haunted by his failure to his friend. Bodhi, as a good friend or Fight Brother, tries to convince him that he can’t be blamed for another man’s decision to jump a motorcycle off a fuckin cliff. This is the meaning the movie finds in these types of sports: to decide for yourself to do something insane is ultimate freedom.

There’s constant talk of “lines.” Your line is the path you want to take up or down a mountain. You scope it out until you’re comfortable with it and then you go. Of course these characters are also following lines of destiny, a chosen direction of life. It’s more important to them to follow the line they know belongs to them than to be sure that it’s gonna take them all the way.

An interesting irony happens in the climax, when Utah catches up with Bodhi just as he’s about to climb a giant waterfall in Venezuela. Bodhi’s last remaining teammate has just decided that this is not his line, he’s gonna have to sit it out and wish Bodhi well. But the FBI agent showing up forces his hand. He tries to climb to get away, and falls to his presumed death like Emperor Palpatine. I guess Bodhi would say he made the choice to climb, and also I bet if he’d tried to turn himself in Utah would’ve chased Bodhi instead and he could’ve just left. But I’d still feel bad about the whole thing if I was Utah. I’d feel like I got a man killed.

With the thieves pulling a Robin Hood with the money it seems for a while like the movie is sanitizing them a little, keeping them uncompromised so they won’t be true bad guys. But then Utah and some cops try to stop them from robbing a bank and the thieves shoot at them with machine guns. This is actually a very effective scene, kinda creepy with Utah facing down people he cares about but not knowing who’s who behind their motorcycle helmet disguises. And he keeps yelling “Bodhi!” at them. Even after revealing that he’s an undercover agent trying to bust him he seems to feel like they’re bros for life. He has to protect him.

Teresa Palmer (who is in everything from THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE to KNIGHT OF CUPS, but I will always remember her from being cast in George Miller’s unmade JUSTICE LEAGUE) is I think the only female in the movie, taking the place of the original’s Lori Petty character. Her name is Samsara, and she explains what her name means, otherwise I would’ve assumed she named herself after the movie SAMSARA, because it seems like something she’d be into. At first you assume she’s some kind of groupie, because she hangs out at their parties but isn’t seen base jumping or anything. But she might be there in more of an advisory role since we learn that she was very close to the actual Ozaki. I don’t think they ever specify what her relationship is to the others, so there’s always this tension that Utah sleeping with her is a betrayal of Bodhi, but it never comes up. Because that guy has no time to worry about boning. He thinks bigger.

Edgar Ramirez (THE COUNSELOR, DELIVER US FROM EVIL) is a very good actor, and does well with Bodhi. He does have the charisma and righteousness to lead an outfit like this, and that weird tension with Johnny Utah where it seems like he knows they’re enemies and wants to fuck with him by being his friend. Also I like when he speaks Spanish as kind of a ploy, appealing to his friend’s cultural pride to get him to do what he wants.

But – I mean, we all knew this – you cannot compare this character to Patrick Swayze’s version unless you want to be disappointed. No candle can be held here. Maybe it was wise to go the unexpected direction and play him subtle like this. Or maybe they should’ve gotten somebody who would go way over the top? I guess we’ll never know. That wasn’t their line.

There seems to be plenty of real stunts, but obviously combined with lots of digital FX, so it’s fun but doesn’t feel as death-defying as the original. I do like the way the score by Tom Holkenborg (aka FURY ROAD‘s Junkie XL) treats a guy snowboarding like an epic spectacle. The director and cinematographer is Ericson Core, who also shot the first THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS. In other words, he’s shot two remakes of POINT BREAK. This has a real nice, sharp look to it, but I could use a little more sunny warmth in some of these beautiful locations. Show what this earth that they want to save is all about.

You know, I forgot all about this until just now, but several years ago they were actually gonna make a POINT BREAK 2, and somebody sent me a copy of the script. If I remember right the main character was revealed to be Bodhi’s son, and then there was a part where somebody came to him in a vision and it didn’t come out and say that it was Bodhi but I got the impression that they were gonna try to get Swayze to cameo. Of course he passed away and so did the movie and although from what I remember the script was okay, I think this is probly a better outcome. If I didn’t have an attachment to the original I’d have no reseravations. This is a perfectly decent high concept b movie.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 30th, 2016 at 10:04 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

18 Responses to “Point Break (remake)”

  1. Amen, Vern. Thanks for being one of the few critics who actually understands the gestalt of what this new version was trying to convey. To his credit, resident wordsmith Franchise Fred also recognized its virtues in the face of the critical pummeling it received last December. Audiences mostly shunned it here in the U.S.; it did much more business in foreign markets (interpret that as you will). I saw it twice during its theatrical run and just bought the Blu Ray yesterday. So… completely biased and happier for it.

    One thing I really got a kick out of were the cameo appearances by two of the original Ex Presidents (Bojesse Christopher and James LeGros) as FBI bigwigs whom Utah has to convince re.his “robbers are extreme sports dudes” theory. Nice nod/flip there.

  2. That poster… It’s so incredibly true to the film and also so, so terrible. Could be awesome on the side of a bus or something, but the portrait-mode framing destroys the concept.

    Shocked you liked this movie,Vern. I thought it was horrid. Caught a late showing at the dollar theater and fell asleep during the climax.

    Trey Parker gave a lecture where he explained effective storytelling as a “But/Therefore” dialectical and ineffective storytelling as a linear series of “And then” statements. This film is 100% and-then statements.

    I really like Kurt Wimmer, but the story is a disjointed mess that never should have been greenlit. And I say that as a guy who read a version of the script with his name on the draft.

    I’ve seen F&F. I read a draft of the remake. I saw (most of) the remake. I saw Sugar and Spice. I saw Point Break: Live! at an LA alt-theater space. Hell, I even bought a sickass t-shirt for the stage show.

    But I’ve never seen Point Break.

    It’s actually a game for me. Sometimes I like seeing only derivative media. I find a strange joy in the moments where a sequel or remake stops dead to acknowledge the original. If you haven’t seen the original, it can feel almost like Brecht. The whole narrative apparatus breaks apart and addresses itself for totally non-diegetic reasons. It’s magical and unintentionally, very deconstructionist.

    It also reminds me of being a small child and recognizing that cultural references were being made without understanding any of the context.

    Like, one time I saw a Dollars Trilogy reference in Animaniacs, but couldn’t describe the scene well enough for my father to explain the joke. Aware of the vague concept of “Badass cowboy” as a reference point, I began to notice other examples frequently. At the time, I didn’t know the difference between a trope and a specific cultural allusion, so I grouped all future images of anti-hero cowboys into one pile. I developed totally distorted image in my head of what this badass cowboy must be. Later, I saw an image of Clint Eastwood in a mural at Western Bagel and learned the name “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” I’ve seen that movie in theaters 4 or 5 times, probably. I even dragged a girlfriend to a 70mm screening as a ‘date.’

    I love the film, but I also miss the weird jumble of imagery and concepts I held in my brain as a naive 8-year-old. Knowing what the Dollars Trilogy actually is and isn’t makes it impossible to retain the previous conception.

    …This is gonna sound weird, but I’ve never seen Point Break because I find the idea of Judaism/Islam’s unknowable YHWH emotionally compelling and like to replicate that mindspace in other parts of my life.

  3. Also kinda surprised you liked this one. I found Bracey to be terrible; all of the stiffness and none of the goofy, innocent charm of Keanu. Ramirez was fine as a reimagined Bohdi but his crew SUCKED, found them so generically boring. My biggest issue though, was how easily Utah figured out the whole thing and how quickly Delroy Lindo bought into his crazy sounding theory. Felt so lazy.

  4. 2 more thoughts —

    1) there are either alternate European cuts of this film, or they cut it to a PG-13 pretty deep into post. Several scenes include obvious over-dubs of f-bomb. Probably less obvious at home, but glaring and awkward in the theater.

    2) this movie had at least 2 separate scenes where I misidentified which of Bodi’s henchmen died. There aren’t that many, but at least 3 of them had identical personalities.

  5. The Original Paul

    March 31st, 2016 at 3:05 am

    Tawdry – after LONDON HAS FALLEN, the “alternative European cut” theory will be my conspiracy theory of the year. It makes no freaking sense to me that anybody who saw the same film would disagree on that one. One obvious explanation is that they made a piss-take version for the Europeans, making fun of the silly silly Americans; and they made a straight-faced jingoistic power fantasy for the American market. The real question, of course, is this: if they actually did this with LONDON HAS FALLEN (and presumably OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN as well), what else have they done it with?

    Ahh, POINT BREAK. The famous precursor to THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, and that one Charlie Sheen film that nobody remembers now but was actually pretty watchable. Look, I’ve always been honest with you guys about my disinterest regarding this movie. I’m afraid that I find the vast majority of it rather dull. There’s a couple of great action scenes, to be sure. And there’s Swayze. And when Swayze acts, Swayze acts. But one great performance and some good action do not make a movie, and most of our time is instead spent with Lori Petty and Keanu Reeves, neither of whom is up to the job. Reeves especially… with the amount his character goes through, the amount of emotional twists and turns he has, they really needed someone to nail the character of Johnny Utah. And Reeves does not even come close to cutting it, for me.

    All that said… Vern’s review practically sold me on the remake, until I read the comments. (Also, Teresa Palmer, who’s been on my “radar” since WARM BODIES.) The weird thing is that POINT BREAK would be one of those films that I’d welcome seeing a remake of, if it fixed some of the issues that I had with the original. Of course I said the same thing about MY BLOODY VALENTINE, and look how that turned out (really, really, really, painfully badly). Yeah, I might skip this one.

  6. I think my problem with this one is that it takes that whole Ozaki thing way too seriously. In the original, Bigelow seems to appreciate the camraderie and sincerity of Bodhi’s little guy club, while at the same time present their beliefs as somewhat silly.
    The remake seems to be a total embrace of the extreme-sports-bro attitude.

  7. if you’re a palmer fan, this movie might be worth a look. She’s stunning and provides an interesting counterpoint to the bros, I think. I don’t really remember. I think I recall her being both notably gorgeous, regularly scantily-clad, and the only character who made any sense… But maybe it was just the first two, because I can’t remember anything about her character now.

  8. The cast are boring stiffs, but some of the stunts are flat out spectacular. Especially the Aerial Gliding scene.

  9. I’ll check it out.

  10. Paul was that Charlie Sheen one the one where he becomes and undercover biker gang member like Bosworth in STONE COLD?

    If I remember it was DTV. I do remember that being pretty decent back in the day.

  11. *an undercover biker gang member

    I’m all over the place tonight. Kinda buzzed off some Guinness from a dumb happy hour sessions with some cool ass people.

  12. The Original Paul

    March 31st, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    Broddie – yep, that’s the one.

  13. Paul, Broddie— B-i-n-g-o! It’s titled BEYOND THE LAW (sounds more like a Seagal joint). From 1993, and summarized as follows:
    “An undercover cop joins a murderous, arms-dealing biker gang to try to put them behind bars”.
    Also starring Michael Madsen as “Blood” (the poor man’s Chains, or comparably good?), Courtney B.Vance, Rip Torn, Linda Fiorentino at the height of her sultriness, and various characters with names like Highside, Dirt, Sidewinder, Bogus Charlie, and (huh?) Oatmeal.

    Could make a great companion piece to TERMINAL VELOCITY, and I’m a bit surprised Vern doesn’t have it on his Review C.V. Sounds like his kind of movie.

  14. There’s not just the uncercover Charlie Sheen vehicle there’s also the car thief movie he did with D.B. Sweeney– No Man’s Land.

  15. I saw it and i loved it. I had a good time, that’s all I always ask for.

  16. Broddie, the Guinness buzz is the best! I have my limits when it comes to remakes (DIRTY HARRY, THE WILD BUNCH among others), but I don’t really mind this one…

  17. I think you could do a great Dirty Harry remake right now, actually. The archetype is super relevant. Though, it might be interesting to try Harry as an Asian man or a so-called “Uncle Tom” Black man.

  18. I don’t care what Vern says, I am never going to watch this one. The trailer is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. And not because I was comparing it to the original (which I haven’t seen since I was about 10); it just looks like one of the stupidest and most poorly acted things ever.

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