Film Review: ‘Point Break’

point-break-luke-bracey
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Ericson Core's post-millennial remake of 'Point Break' is a visual dazzler and a dramatic non-starter.

Showcasing daredevil athleticism in a way that suggests condensed highlights from ESPN, director Ericson Core’s post-millennial take on “Point Break” replaces Californian surfer culture with the globe-trotting world of extreme sports, pitting an athlete-turned-FBI-agent against painstakingly principled Zen eco-activists. Yet what weighs the characters down is not their parachutes or rock-climbing gear, but their sententious First World guilt and bland casting; gone is the free-spirited fun of Kathryn Bigelow’s cult-hit original. Produced partly with mainland coin from DMG Entertainment, which also invested in “Iron Man 3,” the pic (which is being released in 2D and 3D versions) has enough visual dazzle alone to appeal to Asian markets, where it’s opening weeks ahead of its U.S. bow.

Having cut his teeth lensing fast-track blockbusters like “The Fast and the Furious” and “Payback” before helming “Invincible,” Core, who also doubles as d.p. here, has poured his expertise into devising jaw-dropping stunts and visualizing awesome natural wonders. But the sense of living dangerously is somewhat lacking as Kurt Wimmer’s emotionally vacant screenplay fails to make audiences care enough about the characters to sweat over their physical exertions.

The movie starts off strong with a bravura freestyle motocross sequence in the Arizona desert. It also provides a cliched sentimental reason for protag Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) to join the FBI. Handed the enigmatic case of Robin Hood heists in Mumbai and Mexico, in which American congloms were targeted and the loot was distributed among the poor, Utah puts his extreme-sports experience to good use, identifying the perps as fellow athletes trying to pass the legendary Ozaki Eight — a series of “Ordeals” honoring the forces of Nature, laid down by environmentalist-guru Ozaki Ono, who died attempting the third one.

Utah’s first encounter with the gang doffs its hat to the classic surfing scene in the original. We are off the coast of not California but Biarritz, in southwestern France, where the towering, crashing waves look like extras from “The Perfect Storm.” Utah is first drawn to Samsara (Teresa Palmer), who surfs like a Nereid, and is then saved by Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez), the team’s darkly handsome leader. From then on, infiltrating the gang seems to be a piece of cake for Utah, and the script wastes little time on either male rivalry or male bonding as the protags get on with their busy Ordeal itinerary.

Core’s lensing, enhanced by outstanding visual effects supervised by John Nelson, fully taps into the cinematic potential of such dynamic sports as base jumping, sheer-face snowboarding, wingsuit flying, free climbing and big-wave surfing. Aerial shots of the characters floating between the canyons like puffy cushions in their wingsuits are at once goofy and sheer visual poetry, while the scene in which Bodhi and Utah hang off a practically vertical cliff by their fingers must be a milestone in novelty as well as composition.

The sheer range of sports represented here through whiz-bang stunt choreography, all performed by champions in their field, may satisfy today’s attention-deficient audiences. For others, however, excitement will soon turn to overkill, and the level of tension dips considerably toward the end. For all the ponderous, hippy-dippy talk about healing Mother Nature and giving back to society, the eight Ordeals are not described in any comprehensible detail; nor do they relate directly to the gang’s actual feats.

In the 1991 version, surfing was an attitude and philosophy: Patrick Swayze’s gang of “ex-presidents” were blond, shaggy-haired airheads who used words like “get radical.” That they robbed banks to fund their lifestyle was a considerably more anti-establishment gesture, really, than the tortuous and patronizing actions of the new film’s bearded and brooding crusaders. Ironically, even though they insist that they’re not taking on these challenges for their own thrill, they pretty much ditch their charitable schemes by the last few Ordeals, while still retaining their tortured, self-righteous expressions. Their tract-dry dialogue barely rings true, and elicits little passion from those reciting it.

In contrast to Keanu Reeves’ choir-boy innocence at the time of filming, Bracey’s older, been-around image and jock physique affords him a more proactive role than that of a mere coming-of-age outsider. The weak link is Ramirez, who might have revealed greater dramatic heft if his character weren’t so flatly written; at any rate, he’s no match for Swayze’s cosmic dudeness. As the film’s only significant femme, Palmer is reduced to a sexual rather than love interest  for Utah.

Tech credits are fancy to the point where Udo Kramer’s glossy production design feels seems in conflict with the gang’s anti-materialistic mantra. With a trio of editors, the action set pieces look flawlessly executed, but the narrative pacing isn’t as propulsive as it should be. The locations, are spread over France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Venezuela, Canada and the U.S., are spectacular in both their otherworldly beauty and their inhospitality.

Film Review: 'Point Break'

Reviewed at the Cathay, Singapore, Dec. 3, 2015. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 113 MIN.

Production

(U.S.-China) A Warner Bros. (in U.S.) release of an Alcon Entertainment presentation of a Taylor-Baldecchi-Wimmer production in association with DMG Entertainment. Produced by Andrew A. Kosove, Broderick Johnson, John Baldecchi, David Valdes, Christopher Taylor, Kurt Wimmer. Executive producers, John McMurrick, Xiao Wenge, Wu Bing, Dan Mintz, Robert L. Levy, Peter Abrams. Co-producers, Henning Molfenter, Charlie Woebcken, Christoph Fisser.

Crew

Directed by Ericson Core. Screenplay, Kurt Wimmer; story, Rick King, W. Peter Lliff, Kurt Wimmer, based on the motion picture "Point Break." Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Core; editors, Thom Noble, Gerald B. Greenberg, John Duffy; music, Tom Holkenberg; music supervisor, Deva Anderson; production designer, Udo Kramer; set decorator, Michael Collins; costume designer, Lisy Christl; sound (Dolby Digital, Dolby 7.1), special effects supervisor, Uli Nezher, visual effects, UPP, Image Engine,  Digital Sandbox, Lola VFX, Spin VFX; visual effects supervisor, John Nelson; stunt coordinators, Ralf Haeger, Michael Rogers; sports action researcher, Benjamin Ross; line producer, Ralph Brosche; assistant director, Mark Taylor; casting, John Papsidera.

With

Edgar Ramirez, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Delroy Lindo, Ray Winstone, Faris Al-Sultan, Michael Raelert. (English dialogue)

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  1. TattoozNTech says:

    definitely agree with this review. this remake of the 1991 hit is equal parts stunning visual feast and underwhelming emotional deficit. no real connections are ever built between characters and interaction is forced at best, while the reasoning behind their “feats” is nebulous at best. by the end of the movie you’re left not really caring much what happens to anyone, sadly. #pointbreak #remake #disappointed #flop

  2. Alice Smith says:

    Just left the movie. Saw it in 3D. Definitely worth it for me! The plot is irrelevant. The glorious footage of extreme sports is worth the price and then some. I love surf and the waves they were filming at the start and the end were comparable to “Riding Giants” which I have only seen on DVD. The Alps and an insane rock climb at Angel Falls had my hearth beating. I have no experience jumping off mountains but the flying footage in 3D frightened me out of the idea for good!

  3. Jack says:

    People with all the hatred for remakes can go back to the 80s and suck a dick because thats what I hate for people that talk smack about point break.

  4. Cecil B Devine says:

    Hollywood has done more for surfing than Fukushima.

  5. stevenkovacs says:

    TURKEY LEFTOVERS: GOBBLE! GOBBLE!

  6. Howie says:

    Sick of these awful remakes. This doesn’t look appealing at all. It looks bland and dry. Acting looks bad too. And this garbage has a $100 million budget. LOL, box office bomb!!!

  7. loco73 says:

    Why is it suprising that this brain-dead, not wanted and not asked for remake, populated by unremarkable, boring and bland actors, a crummy, sub-par script and another hack-in-the making director turns out to be huge turd?!

  8. TheFilmGuy says:

    Very disappointing. Seems Kunt Wimmer’s writing hasn’t lived up to expectations. Salt 2 is another example. I read Jolie personally rejected his best efforts. Bet Core’s pissed. Probably best watched with the sound down while doing something else. 100 million dollars! Mwahahaha!

  9. cadavra says:

    I thought the reason for remaking a crappy movie was to do it better.

  10. mike says:

    When you watch the first movie you see Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves ACTUALLY surfing and ACTUALLY jumping out of planes. It was made at a time when CGI wasnt the answer or even the option, so they movie was real and worked within the imagination and creativity of the production team. The original also tapped into a subculture that was relateable a the time. The average Joe could and still can go surfing and skydiving and California surfing culture was all the rage back in 1991. The remake has none of this. It is nothing but a 2 hour CGI fest of watching “actors” running from green screens and only being present in moments of dialogue, while CGI and stuntmen fill in the blanks. I fail to see how the average Joe will find himself riding a dirt bike down an avalanche and recover with a minor scratch. This movie is offensive to the original film and fans of the original film. I honestly hope this movie bombs horribly and will ignite those who havent seen the original to watch it and realize it is a movie that should never be remade or re-imagined. Also I secretly hope this is all a big joke so when you go to see this movie, they just screen the original instead. I would buy a ticket for that.

  11. Jim says:

    What made the original so great was the humor, specifically Gary Busey and (indirectly sometimes) Keanu. This one looks to have lost the humorous element to go bigger on the stunts. Bummer.

  12. Whoooah says:

    The original was cheesy but The Swayz had enough charisma to make it a cult classic.

  13. Mar Tim says:

    The 1991 version was perfect. No way this one can be better

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