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Review: Point Break (2015)

Point Break (2015)

Directed by: Ericson Core

Premise: A remake of the 1991 film. An FBI agent infiltrates a team of extreme sports athletes suspected of carrying out acts of economic and ecological sabotage.

What Works: The faults of 2015’s Point Break are many but its cinematography is quite astonishing. Throughout this movie the characters travel the globe to exotic locales and the filmmakers capture some exceptional vistas. Some of these sequences almost certainly involved computer graphics but the physical elements are indistinguishable from digital manipulation and the set pieces are impressively staged and executed. At other points Point Break is photographed like a Mountain Dew commercial. That style befits the subject matter and one of the few smart decisions in this remake is to place it on the intersection of extreme sports culture and radical environmentalism. That gives the movie something of a hip and counter-cultural edge that could have been marshaled into a better movie.

What Doesn’t: The remake of Point Break adheres quite closely to the plot of the 1991 film but every innovation that the filmmakers bring to the material fouls the logic of the story. This film makes no sense. It centers upon a former extreme sports celebrity who left the field to join the FBI. After a series of daring heists in which extreme sports enthusiasts steal and sabotage American corporations, the trainee goes undercover to infiltrate this group. The premise has several immediate problems. The FBI works domestically but in this version of Point Break the Bureau sends their agent all over the world including places like Venezuela where he has no authority. On top of that, this undercover agent was formerly a sports celebrity complete with a YouTube channel and product endorsements; it beggars belief that he would be able to function at all as an undercover agent or that the FBI would send a trainee into undercover work. But even setting that aside and chalking it up to dramatic license, this story still makes no sense. The FBI agent ingratiates himself among the criminals totally by chance and from then on the movie is a series of disconnected events with the athletes hopping all over the world and completing extreme challenges but not really doing anything illegal. One scene doesn’t lead logically to the next and the FBI agent jumps to conclusions without evidence. The acting in this film is awful, especially the two leads played by Luke Bracey and Édgar Ramírez. The script does them no favors; everyone speaks like pseudo-philosophical Facebook memes and there is little or no characterization. The original Point Break was a classic undercover story in which a law enforcement officer gets in too deep and doubts his allegiance. That’s true of the remake as well but there’s no tension to the hero’s dilemma. That’s largely due to the fact that there is nothing at stake in the story and there’s no sense that the men bond in their adventures. This is most apparent when the Point Break remake restages key moments from the original film, namely the showdown sequence parodied so well in 2007’s Hot Fuzz. In the original that moment is an emotional climax of brotherly machismo but here it’s just an empty dramatic gesture that is hokey instead of poignant. The filmmakers also attempt to expand the criminal ideology of the original Point Break and here too they make a pig’s ear out of it. The criminals claim that their robberies are political statements. It’s unclear if they are serious about their ideological positions or if this is all a veneer; the story needs that ambiguity but it doesn’t seem like the filmmakers know the answer either and the movie waffles on their motivations, gutting the very thing that made the original Point Break interesting.

Bottom Line: The original Point Break has been imitated and parodied many times but it’s hard to imagine a shallower or stupider take on the 1991 film than this remake. There is a provocative idea at the center of this film but it is buried under bad acting and worse storytelling.

Episode: #576 (January, 3, 2016)