1 hour, 54 minutes
I’ve spent the last week brooding over how depressingly bad “Batman v Superman” was. Zack Snyder’s complete misunderstanding of those classic characters has just got me baffled. This last weekend was jam packed with live theater, and I wasn’t able to make it out to the movies, so I missed “God is Not Dead 2,” a movie that fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between schools and religion. I did see the trailer, though, and was dumbfounded at the scene where the lead character, a high school teacher, is put in handcuffs for having the audacity to mention the name of Jesus in a class discussion.
A lot of people seem to think that just because you can’t proselytize (and that goes for any religion) on school grounds, that somehow using the name of Jesus is illegal. Trust me, it’s not. Obviously, I can’t say whether the movie is any good or not, but the trailer is pretty funny.
Instead of going out, I decided to stream something, and the best I could come up with was the recent remake of the action opus “Point Break,” a movie that, in keeping with the theme of my week, fundamentally misunderstands its source material. The bare bones are this: Johnny Utah, brand new to the FBI, gets put on the case of a bunch of high profile thieves. He goes undercover and discovers that the criminals are a bunch of philosopher adrenaline junkies using their robberies to make a statement.
That basic outline is the same for both films, but in execution things differ quite a bit. In the 1991 version, starring a young Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, and Gary Busey, of all people, everything is simpler. Johnny Utah is an ex-college football star who blew out his knee and decided to join the bureau. The bad guys, known as the Ex-Presidents because of their signature disguises, are surfers, using the robberies to fuel their endless summer, as Utah tells us in the film.
Their leader, played by Swayze, as Bodhi, is a pacifist, pseudo-idealist who has fooled himself and all his friends into believing that their actions are justified. This character, more than any other in the film, has a beautifully drawn arc, from near-mythic to a desperate mess. Reeves is at his Keanu Reevesiest — just off of “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” this was his chance to prove himself as an action star, a feat he achieved three years later with “Speed.”
By many accounts, “Point Break” isn’t a great film — the dialogue leans toward cheesy, the plot is certainly full of holes, and Reeves is still trying to master his instrument. But on the other hand, it’s a perfect film. From beginning to end it does not let up. Swayze is awesome, the action sequences are superb not because of their scale, but because they are entertaining, and you’ve got to love a movie that has the guts to just wind of Gary Busey and let him go. “Point Break” is one of my favorite action films of all time.
“Point Break (2015)” however, completely misses the point. This feels like a movie made for and by those YouTube X-Gamers who delight in performing stunts that will eventually leave them as paraplegics. Utah is one of those guys, an extreme athlete who loses his best friend in the opening scenes of the film performing a remarkably stupid stunt. Rather than just trusting the cops and robbers plot to provide motivation enough, the filmmakers have decided to give their hero the tried and true “ghost of failures past.”
Playing Utah is an incredibly bland actor named Luke Bracey. In casting our criminals, they did a little better. Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez certainly has the charisma and presence to play Bodhi, but unfortunately his character is a muddled mess of contradictions. I’m not sure the screenwriters did any research, but the character’s name “Bodhi” is a reference to the Bodhissatva — essentially a reference to Buddha. Swayze’s version believes himself to be spiritual, though he’s deluded. Ramirez’ version holds his own personal fight club in the basement.
Instead of the “endless summer” of the original, now the criminals are seeking to achieve something called “The Eight,” a convoluted, pseudo-mystical series of impossible tasks dreamed up by a Japanese extreme athlete turned eco-warrior who died attempting No. 3 on the list. These guys are constantly talking about “giving back” and healing the earth, but it’s unclear whether they are motivated by the quest for the Eight, by the fight for mother Earth, or by nothing at all. They perform high profile, military grade heists, never keeping the billions they steal, but always repatriating it.
At some point in the writing process someone must have come to the realization that, if these guys give away all the money, how are they able to afford the hundreds of thousands of dollars of high-tech equipment they use? This is solved by a shadowy billionaire benefactor who doesn’t know about the criminal enterprise and is funding them … why? Who knows?
This is a movie that never delves farther than the barest surface level of understanding. The term, point break, is a surfing term that, of course, also evokes the theme of the film — reaching a breaking point. The first film assumes that the audience isn’t made up of morons, and never feels the need to mention that. This film just lays it all out there — “Things are going to come to a point. A point where you break!” OK. Got it.
“Point Break (2015)” isn’t a good movie, but if it had been it’s own thing and not a film trying to graft itself onto a valuable property, I wouldn’t have minded so much. The acting’s not great, but it’s not terrible, and the filming of the stunt sequences is pretty good.
As a remake, however, it has forever tied itself to a far superior product and will be quickly forgotten in comparison.
“Point Break” (2015) is rated PG-13 for language and action violence. The original “Point Break” is rated R for language, violence, nudity and sexual situations, but don’t hold that against it. It’s awesome.