A muddled hodgepodge of nostalgic markers, Point Break (2015) uses Kathryn Bigelow’s ninety’s classic as a thin connective tissue to showcase (admittedly well crafted) stunts. Dirt biking, paragliding, snow-boarding, wing-suit flying, free-style rock climbing… The plot here becomes beside the point – an excuse merely to get to the next extreme practical stunt and then the next one after. There’s no pace though, no real sense of momentum; just seemingly arbitrary scenes connecting the snow-boarding stunt to the rock climbing stunt so you could call this a ‘movie’ and not ‘Most Extreme Sports: Volume 22’.
There’s a po-faced seriousness to much of the remake, undercutting the satirical heft of Bigelow’s original. Point Break (1991) takes action movie macho-mumbo-jumbo and lays it bare. It’s action film filtered as melodrama, a doomed love story between two alphas, climaxing in an intentionally grandiose display of affection. The remake can’t see beyond the surface-value. It gets the macho one-upmanship between Bodhi & Johnny Utah; but doesn’t get what that relationship actually meant or what the original used it to deconstruct. When Keanu Reeves’ Johnny Utah fires his gun in the air, letting target Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) get away – it works as an action climax, as goofy macho posturing and as an oddly romantic gesture. In the remake, the moment’s repeated just because it happened in the original. It’s there purely as nostalgic baiting, a vestige of the past, to convince you just for a second that maybe you’re watching the better version of Point Break. But there’s no context to the moment – it doesn’t work as goofy macho posturing or as a romantic gesture, just purely as a tribute to the nineties.
The bare bones plot of the remake is the same as its predecessor: by-the-book cop Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) goes undercover to figure out the identity of a group of athletes-turned-thieves, inevitably bringing him into the crosshair of the charismatic but dangerous Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez). It’s not long before Utah’s questioning his allegiance to the ‘job’ versus the newfound camaraderie with his bro. This seemingly simple hook is complicated to the point of confusion in the remake. The athletes aren’t just surfers but extreme sports junkies. Bodhi’s not just looking for the next big wave; but looking to complete a series of eight mythical extreme sports challenges (The Ozaki Eight). So instead of just surfing the next big wave, Bodhi needs to paraglide into the earth, wing-suit fly off the Swiss Alps, snowboard off the Italian Alps, rock-climb the highest waterfall… And the gang’s not just robbing banks, they’re blowing up goldmines and performing daring cargo heists in mid-air. Everything is bigger, more extreme yet somehow lacking. By adding more stunts and bigger set pieces, the sum total becomes less – a muddied jumble of scenes and moments that never coalesce. The remake becomes all about surface value (the stunts, the pretty locale, the swooping camera angles) because that’s all there is to it. There’s no real time to breathe, to really get to know the characters in between set pieces.
Edgar Ramirez makes the most of the thin material, adding a somber note to Bodhi not present in Swayze’s defiant portrayal of the character. The actor once again proves to be the best thing in otherwise forgettable films (see Deliver Us From Evil & Wrath of The Titans for further proof). The rest of the cast is serviceable. Luke Bracey’s Johnny Utah is a bit of a blank, which is to say he’s perfectly suitable for the role. Delroy Lindo and Ray Winstone collect a paycheck, playing variations of their same stock character: the seasoned why-won’t-they-just-listen-to-me police captain & the irritable I-don’t-have-time-for-this (usually drunk) partner respectively.
The whole thing feels strangely pointless. Point Break’s already been remade (and done so ten times better) in 2001 with The Fast and The Furious. That film doesn’t have any overt references to the original – no surfing, no shooting a gun in the air six times, no “I’m an F.B.I agent”; yet the core relationship between Dom & Brian, the excessive macho-posturing, the homoerotic subtext – all feels much more in line with Point Break than the remake that bears its name.
Point Break (2015) is a hollow shell of the original, wrapped in the same 1991 coating yet stale underneath. It’s a pretender, a wannabe – inundating the viewer with the catchphrases, iconic images and moments from yesteryear as if that would be enough, as if the past (in and of itself) can justify its own fragile existence. It’s a movie that so desperately wants to separate itself from its 90s origin (with flashy new extreme stunts) yet hinges still on the same exact beats of its predecessor (it all rests yet again on catching that one giant wave). Throughout the film, various characters will opine that they need to find ‘their own line’ – be it a path whilst snowboarding down a mountain or climbing up a waterfall or really in life in general. It’s advice the remake itself should have taken to heart.