I am not totally against the idea of remakes, but there has to be a reason for them, and there really is no point to the Point Break remake.
In 1988 Die Hard changed the direction of action movies. If taking a B-movie script, based on a pulp novel that had been kicking around for years, wasn’t enough, casting the star of a romantic comedy drama TV show was. We now know Bruce Willis as an action star, that is why it is so easy to forget that the secret of his success was that he was an everyman. Three years later Kathryn Bigelow completed the transformation with Point Break. Slacker comedy star Keanu Reeves became the next generation of action star. But there is far more to it than that. It took the best of what became known as Cinéma du look and gave it heart and soul. It wasn’t unusual for films of the genre in the 70’s and 80’s to be sexist or even misogynist. It has been suggested that Point Break dispensed with this because it was directed by a woman, I would rather thing it is because it was directed by an intelligent filmmaker.
Patrick Swayze’s Bodhi is the movies villain, but in Bigelow’s hands he is so much more. We know from the moment we meet him that he is guilty, but we still like him. He is a more sympathetic character than the FBI outside Utah and Pappas. This works so well as they wait so long before ultimately crosses the line, and it is only Utah who can tell him that he has crossed the line. The casting of Swayze was a stroke of brilliance, bringing the baggage of his early low budget action roles, his TV work and his romantic leads. As a viewer you feel the contradiction of not wanting him to be the villain, and wanting him to be a totally badass villain. Lori Petty Tyler was also a revelation. Her character his was far more edgy and her look more androgynous than the norm of the time and the genre.
Movies about surfing often talk about losing and finding oneself in the experience and the moment, a spiritual experience. An often repeated idea that I probably spouted as a fan of the movie, but one I didn’t understand until I started surfing. That’s right I took up surfing, largely because of Point Break. And that is largely the problem with the new Point Break, it just doesn’t get it. In 2001, Point Break was remade, you may have seen it, it was called The Fast and the Furious (2001). Incidentally Ericson Core the director of Point Break was DOP on The Fast and the Furious. Whist flawed at least The Fast and the Furious understood what Point Break was all about. It was also well cast and the franchise that it spawned cannot be overlooked. Sadly the remake misses all of this, acting more like a sequel than a remake. It concentrates on scale and spectacle and forgets story and emotion.
The one thing the new version of Point Break has going for it is the action scenes, but even they have their limits. There was talk of a scene in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015) where Tom Cruise flew with a Wingsuit. The idea was dropped as the helmet would hide Cruises identity and create a barrier from the audience. That is the main problem with Point Break. The action is good but no better than a Red Bull advert or youtube clip. Ultimately none of the action compares the foot chase of the original movie. Bigger isn’t better, especially if it lacks emotional connection. Keanu Reeves’ FBI Agent Johnny Utah is like the audience, he is one of us. Like so many people his life didn’t turn out like he expected. Looking for a new direction he thinks he has found it with the FBI. He is reluctant to take up surfing as he goes undercover, he asks Pappas (Gary Busey) why he can’t just walk around with a board under his arm looking stoned. This is why it’s works so well when he finds himself. Luke Bracey’s interpretation of the character is the opposite, a readymade extreme sports star who is equally adept as his quarry. He is too good, too perfect for the mission, this is addressed in the movies one well conceived moment, but it is too little too late.
But the problem doesn’t end there. Departing from the idea of the ex presidents from original film who rob banks to fund their “endless summer” the new incarnation of the characters are trying to complete a series of extreme sport challenges. One of the challenges is to surf a giant wave, and true to the plot they find their wave. However is it really that big? It is bigger than anything I am ever likely to surf, but it isn’t that big in terms of giant waves. My mind wandered to tow-in surfing pioneer Laird Hamilton and his fantastic documentary Riding Giants. As I was thinking I have seen Hamilton surf bigger waves than that, who turned up for a cameo? None other than Laird John Hamilton.
I started by saying that I not against the idea of a remake if there was a reason for it. It would be hard to find reason to remake Point Break. The original film came from a very different time, a time when the world was coming to realise the problems of the excess of the past decade. But also a more innocent and hopeful time. So all in all, the odds were stacked against the film even before it was burdened with a week script and poor cast. It therefore came as no great surprise that it ended its first week on general release at number nine in the UK box-office.
In conclusion if you are thinking of watching Point Break at the cinema, you will need to act fast as is unlikely to be around for long. There are better ways of spending two hours, I would start with Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 masterpiece or alternatively Keanu Reeves’ latest action movie John Wick. Either option will be more rewarding.