‘Point Break’ misses the point, breaks

Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - 5:11pm

NOSELL

Warner Bros.

 

Remakes are nothing new in Hollywood. Some of the greats, like Alfred Hitchcock and Cecil B. DeMille, have even remade their own works. But there’s something depressing about the current remake movement presently ensnaring the cultural landmarks of the ’80s and ’90s. In attempting to adapt the excesses of these eras to the modern day, filmmakers have decided that sucking all the energy out of these films is the best course of action — draining all shades of fun until the new version is as dull and colorless as their desaturated visuals. “Point Break” is a continuation of this disappointing trend, following in the footsteps of films like “Total Recall” and “RoboCop.”

The original “Point Break” is far from a work of genius. It edges into the ridiculous, but it fortunately cast future icons of the time including Keanu Reeves (“The Matrix”), Patrick Swayze (“Dirty Dancing”) and, for better or worse, Gary Busey (“Lethal Weapon”). The memorable cast paired with the high-energy filmmaking of the then on-the-rise Kathryn Bigelow (Oscar winning director of “The Hurt Locker”) elevates the film into the memorable territory of cult classic. However, the remake is a dour affair of little entertainment value filled with weak, flat characters and ideas.

Following former extreme poly-athlete Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey, “The November Man”), “Point Break” sees its protagonist join the FBI after a tragic motorcross accident claims the life of his friend (Max Theriot, “Bates Motel”). When a series of high stakes heists perplexes his superiors, Utah theorizes that the perpetrators are attempting the legendary “Ozaki Eight,” a series of extreme sports trials meant to honor nature. Going undercover, Utah immerses himself within a radical group of athletes and eco-warriors, led by Bodhi (Édgar Ramírez, “Deliver Us From Evil”).

While “Point Break” keeps the same overall story of its predecessor, the filmmakers fail to breathe new life into the characters. Bracey continues the line of Australian, Sam Worthington/Jai Courtney types that grow increasingly bland with each new incarnation. His Utah is formulaically brooding as he tries to find his place in life between the wildness represented by Bodhi’s crew and the structure of the FBI, signified by the figure of Pappas (Ray Winstone, “The Departed”). Bracey never sells this inner conflict, mainly because screenwriter Kurt Wimmer (who wrote the underwhelming “Total Recall” remake) never gives him any opportunities. Utah just gets swept up in whatever side is convenient, his attachment never truly developing for either of the causes.

Meanwhile, both Bodhi’s crew and the FBI struggle to make any impression. Wrapped in self-seriousness, the two groups are a drag to be around. The extreme athletes are a boring bunch with hardly any distinguishable characteristics between them. Instead of personalities, every member just spouts the same pseudo-philosophical rhetoric about finding balance, pursuing their “line” and protecting the Earth. Early on when one member dies snowboarding, it becomes hard to remember which one he was or even his name — he had blonde hair … I think his name was Chowder? Oh well, let’s skip to the next party scene so we can get some generic product placement and attractive women dancing.

Winstone hardly does any better, trying his best in a thankless role that amounts to being a gruff veteran with no other personality traits outside of occasionally putting Utah in his indecisive place. Ramírez is the only actor to at least make an impression with his role, but even his talents can’t lift the leaden preaching of Bodhi.

The film tells the audience how connected characters are instead of developing these relationships organically through genuine interactions. This failure is most egregious in the romantic subplot between Utah and Samsara (Teresa Palmer, “Warm Bodies”), who only seem to talk to each other in broad platitudes — at least the pair look pretty, if that’s any consolation.

Like its other remakes, the characters take themselves far too seriously in “Point Break,” robbing them of any relatability or humor. They’re shallow cutouts who go to fight clubs and flip off the camera with a scowl, all in the name of being gritty. Every line is delivered with a straight face and no self-awareness of their own ridiculousness. At one point, Bodhi declares “The only law that matters is gravity” — he must have never learned about the laws of thermodynamics or any other laws of physics. The line is so unaware of its own absurdity it becomes laughable. Because “Point Break” is so engaged in its own self-importance that it forgets to have fun with itself, its over-the-top moments become even more unbelievable.

These problems are all really unfortunate, considering the stunt work in “Point Break” is actually quite impressive and employs some of the best extreme sports athletes performing on location. However, Director Ericson Core (“Invincible”) never elevates these scenes to reach their full potential. It’s hard to invest in these high-wire acts of daring when the characters that are performing them in the film are so forgettable that you can’t remember or don’t care what happens to them, forming scenes that are dramatically empty and devoid of momentum.

With its energetic source material and solid stunt work, “Point Break” has no right to be boring, but it somehow finds a way to become increasingly dull and unexciting as it slogs through its nearly two-hour runtime. Whether it’s dimensionless characters or a need to weigh down every scene with overt seriousness, “Point Break” is a joyless labor to get through. Instead, go see a film like “Creed,” “The Force Awakens” or “The Hateful Eight” — productions that use ideas from their predecessors in new, engaging ways instead of draining the life out of them. Or just buy the original “Point Break” — it’s on sale on Amazon.