In 1991’s Point Break, undercover FBI agent Johnny Utah infiltrates a group of SoCal surfers who also happen to be a gang of deadly armed robbers.
Despite being helmed by future Oscar-winning director Katheryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), the movie is best remembered as a guilty pleasure thanks to its thrilling scenes of surfing and skydiving and central bromance between Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze.
It’s an unlikely candidate for a remake, but perhaps a creative one: instead of remaking a good movie, why not something that can actually be improved upon?
Unfortunately, 2015’s Point Break is a complete disaster. Half a star for the legitimately impressive footage of real-life stunt work. The other 90+ minutes of this mess are torture.
In 2015, surfing and skydiving aren’t enough. Here, we have a more complete spectrum of extreme sports that involves motocross, snowboarding, mountain climbing, cliff diving, cave diving, windsurfing… and more.
And armed robbery is too boring for modern tastes. Here, the “bad” guys are eco-terrorists who get their thrills by stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. They only resort to robbing a bank when the FBI cuts off their funding from rich middle-eastern party hounds who like chilling with extreme sportsmen.
And because extreme sports and eco-terrorism wouldn’t be interesting enough on their own, here they get combined into single actions, like stealing millions of dollars by releasing palettes of bills from a moving plane, then skydiving out of the plane… and into a cave! Wowza.
In the film’s very first scene, extreme sports legend Johnny Utah (now played by Luke Bracey) leads his best friend to his death through some risky mountaintop motocross. Distraught over the loss, he spends the next handful of years in FBI training.
Over the course of the rest of the film, Utah will kill a few more people, using even more direct methods like shooting them with a gun. I don’t think the film’s eco-terrorist baddies are responsible for any deaths in the film, though they may have shot some police in the armed robbery sequence.
Those baddies are led by new age-spouting Bodhi (Édgar Ramírez), the lone sympathetic character in the film when he’s not rattling off mumbo-jumbo. He, and I guess the rest of his crew, are on some kind of mission to complete eight impossible feats of extreme sports… to finally become one with the Earth. Yes, that’s how you do it.
And along the way, they just happen to “free” millions of dollars in cash and valuables from their captors. Because it’s conveniently located at just the right place to coincide with the extreme feats.
That’s why the FBI, and Bracey’s Utah, who gives insight into the extreme sports mentality, is on their tail. Delroy Lindo plays Utah’s boss in the states, while Ray Winstone – in a role played by Gary Busey in the original film – is Utah’s contact/partner when the action moves to Europe. Teresa Palmer plays Samsara Dietz, a version of Lori Petty’s character from the earlier film, whose relationship with the other characters is thinly detailed.
While Utah suspects his targets of being the eco-terrorists from the get-go, instead of simple surveillance he decides to infiltrate their ranks, win their trust, and perform death-defying stunts… in the hopes of gaining a little more in intel. He makes no attempt to hide his identity – he’s kind of a big deal in the extreme sports world – and you figure if these guys go asking around about him, or even look him up on Google, they’ll figure out he’s a cop.
At the film’s climax, Utah chases Bodhi up a rock wall with no safety measures like a dog running after a car onto a highway. I’m sitting there wondering: what is this FBI agent going to do if he catches his target? Put him in cuffs while they’re dangling off the cliff? Chuck him off the mountain?
2015’s Point Break is a radical departure from the 1991 film – no harm there – but Kurt Wimmer’s screenplay seems to needlessly rely on the earlier movie for key plot details and character motivation. While Bodhi kidnapped the Lori Petty character in the original, Utah seems to have no motive for tracking down Bodhi so relentlessly during the film’s climax here – in fact, Bodhi should be the one motivated to seek revenge on Utah. The end result is one of the year’s most senseless and confusing features.
There is, however, some great footage of real-life stunt work throughout the film: those are real people jumping off cliffs and snowboarding down dangerous slopes and flying through the air in wingsuits. One only wishes their efforts were put to use in a better film.