Take all of the campy fun out of the ‘90s cult hit “Point Break” and you get this 2015 remake. The action sequences are impressive and Édgar Ramírez is a dreamboat, but this version of “Point Break” simultaneously takes itself too seriously and yet not seriously enough. There’s an inkling of an interesting idea here that gets abandoned halfway through, and even the thrilling set pieces – like freeform rock climbing and jumping off a waterfall – aren’t redeeming enough.
We’re fully in reboot land these days, with a shocking amount of films and TV shows from the ‘80s and ‘90s getting modern remakes. They’re often totally useless – like this summer’s “Poltergeist,” starring a wasted Sam Rockwell, or this fall’s abominable “Jem and the Holograms” – and although “Point Break” isn’t a total waste, it isn’t good, either. It’s like a reboot Brought to You by Urban Outfitters, with everyone covered in oppressively heavy, obviously fake tattoos, and wrapped in woven blankets and ponchos, and having Serious Discussions about the nature of the Earth and the extent of our abuse of Her, man. It’s like an undergraduate philosophy course with all of the required juvenile posturing.
The original “Point Break” has won fans over in the years since with the heavy bromance, almost homoerotic, relationship between Keanu Reeves’s Johnny Utah and Patrick Swayze’s Bodhi, the goofiness of those presidents’ masks, the allure of an endless summer. “Point Break” is like a password for a specific kind of movie fan, one who doesn’t necessarily undervalue campiness. Keanu’s blankness and Swayze’s half-manic, half-Zen energy worked together like yin and yang. This reboot doesn’t have anything that balanced.
This time around, Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) isn’t a college football quarterback but a motocross star, well-known for his hair-raising stunts and extreme lifestyle. But after he is involved in the accidental death of his best friend, Johnny disappears from that sporting world and instead ends up in the FBI, where he hopes to put his law degree to good use and forget his time living on the edge.
His first major case, though, is built on that experience when Johnny notices that a group of eco-terrorists who are stealing diamonds and cash and distributing them to the poor – freaking out the FBI, who want to protect “American interests” – seem to be following a series of obstacles called the Ozaki 8. By jumping out of skyscrapers on motorcycles and diving out of planes into underground caves, these people are tackling ordeals that are meant to bring out personal enlightenment and oneness with nature. And since that whole thing used to be Johnny’s specialty, he’s sent undercover to infiltrate the group and bring them in.
That’s easier said than done, though, especially when Johnny meets Bodhi (Ramírez), whose magnetic presence pulls Johnny in immediately. It’s not like Bodhi is a fan of Johnny’s – in practically their first conversation, Bodhi calls out Johnny for having been a sponsored extreme athlete, selling his identity for partnerships from energy drinks – but something about Bodhi’s focus and absolutely take-no-bullshit attitude is endearing. A friendship forms, but it becomes more and more clear that Bodhi is more than who he says he is – and that maybe he’s more than Johnny can handle.
The biggest difference between this new “Point Break” and its predecessor is the handling of Bodhi’s ideology: here, it’s a mix of anarchism and eco-terrorism, with a focus on the Earth and natural resources and criticism of capitalism; there, it was the search for an endless party, for a life free of responsibility. The latter sounds goofier, but it’s the former that in this version of “Point Break” seems clunky and vague. The script introduces this idea of Bodhi as a warrior for the disenfranchised, but it never really follows through with what that thinking means past Bodhi liking to blow stuff up. Ramírez gives a coolly authoritative performance – and DAMN, is the man attractive – but the film wants us to root for Bodhi without giving us real reason. It’s a character that can’t escape Swayze’s shadow.
The less said about Bracey, the better, and there are practically no words for Teresa Palmer, who plays Johnny’s love interest Samsara and spends most of the movie walking around with a blanket draped around her, mumbling about the power of nature. If there is anything to compliment about “Point Break,” it’s the action sequences, which include a motocross race on the narrow peaks of sand dunes, a snowboarding ride down a devastatingly rocky mountain, and of course surfing through a giant wave, a la the original film. But while the stunts are impressive, they lack the impact needed to make “Point Break” memorable – to make it more than just a misguided mimicry. It ends up being just that.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Guttenbergs