Somehow Even Dumber
Point Break (2015)
While I'm not really certain how many people really have a fondness for 1991's Point Break (it's, frankly, a lesser entry in the Keanu Reeves oeuvre, and I somehow doubt many Zennials, and well as anyone younger, are seeking the film out), those that have seen it understand it's delightfully cheesy charms. It's not a good film by any measure, but there's a dopey earnestness that at least makes it watchable. It's the same energy the first The Fast and the Furious tapped into (as well as aping much of its story), and it just so happened that the 2001 film found the right audience receptive to the story to launch a massive franchise.
It's understandable then why, in the wake of the The Fast and the FuriousStarted as a film about undercover policing in the illegal street-racing community, this series has grown to encompass a number of different genres and become one of the most bankable franchises in the world. franchise growing from dopey car culture crime series into massive blockbuster events (Fast Five made an unexpectedly huge $626.1 Mil and Fast & Furious 6 topped that with $788.7 Mil), someone would go back and say, "hey, why not remake the film that kinda sorta started this whole thing? What about Point Break?" I get it, I can see the dollar signs that producers must have had. But when remaking a film like this, you have to tap into what people actually enjoyed about the film (or films, in this case). As Dominick Toretto essentially implies with everything he does, it's all about heart, and that's what's lacking in this newer Point Break.
This 2015 remake comes at the concept from the wrong angle. The 1991 original might have been about surf bros that also happen to be master bank robbers, but the film was never really about that. It was really about the bro-mance between Reeve's hilariously improbably names Johnny Utah and Patrick Swayze's Bodhi. You cared about the story because you cared about the friendship between the two characters. That's what the Fast and Furious franchise realized with its first film (and has emphasized over and over again in th sequels): family, my dudes. The friendship between Vin Diesel's Dominic Toretto and Paul Walker's Brian O'Conner was the heart of the series (right up until Walker's untimely death). You have to have that solid core duo, the two that want to be friends while also, in the end, being on opposite sides of the law. Whatever dumb shit happens around them, whatever wild things they get up to, the emphasis on the characters is key.
That was what was lacking in the 2015 Point Break. It casts its lead as an X-Game pro (20 years after the X-Games were truly big, mind you) and puts a lot of emphasis on the action. Surfing, base jumping, cliff climbing, extreme bike riding. Somewhere in the middle of it the characters get tossed in and they're supposed to make a friendship, but that never really comes to fruition. You don't believe it, you don't see it, it's not in the performances. We're told, "hey, bro, you're my friend," but the movie never really builds it up properly. Telling isn't doing. All the characters do is perform extreme stunts and then, occasionally, have stilted dialogue paired with bad acting. The friendship, the heart, is lacking. And without that, all you have is a half-baked version of a film with two superior versions that already exist.
This version of the film focuses on Luke Bracey's Johnny "Utah" Brigham (and the fact that the film feels the need to explain that his name isn't actually "Utah" shows how little it understand what made the original work). An FBI analyst and agent-in-training, Utah wants to be a field agent. When he is called in on a set of improbable heists -- a diamond heist in Mumbai where the criminals escape, on motorbike, from the middle of a skyscraper, which was then followed by a seemingly unrelated U.S. treasury heist in Mexico where the criminals escape by parachuting out of a plane and into a series of deep underground tunnels -- Utah realizes that the criminals are trying to complete the Ozaki 8, a set of extreme stunts to connect them to... well... something. The point of the stunts really just seems to be doing the stunts, but some deeper spiritual meaning is implied.
Whatever the case, Utah gets his boss, FBI Instructor Hall (Delroy Lindo), to send our agent-in-training out to France to catch up with a group of people about to ride a big wave caused by a recent tsunami. It's a once-in-a-decade wave, and if the criminals are wanting to perform the Ozaki 8, this would be the time to do it. There, Utah decides that Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez) is the likely suspect because, well, his gut says so. He follows Bodhi around Europe, eventually gaining his trust (at least he assumes), with Bodhi letting the FBI agent into the midst of their run. And then they go on to do a bunch of extreme sports, never getting near anything criminal, and the FBI handlers start to get pissed. "This isn't a vacation," they say, and then want to recall Utah. Except then, Bodhi has Utah join him on a heist, blowing up diamond mines and stealing some of the goods, and the case is made. Now all Utah has to do is somehow catch up to Bodhi and arrest him, which is easier said than done.
In many, many ways, this remake of Point Break is a mixed bag. It clearly wants to take the influence of The Fast and the Furious -- with a multicultural crew of criminals and a floppy haired lead hero, performing very pretty action while girls dance around in bikinis -- and apply it to the plot of Point Break. Except it really doesn't understand why the original film is beloved (by those that have seen it, at least). Instead of an earnest, if goofy, play on cops and robbers, this newer Point Break gives us a low-rent, Euro-trash travelogue with, occasionally, decently pretty vistas. The difference between this film and the original (let alone the even more enjoyable Fast & Furious films) is night and day, doing this remake no favors.
As I noted, this film has no heart to it. The cast is uniformly bland, with no one providing even a modicum of charisma. There's no life coming from Bracey's Utah or Ramirez's Bodhi. The partnership between Utah and his handler, Ray Winstone's Angelo Pappas, is also lacking. As one reviewer pointed out, "a remake should not make you pine for the pairing of Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey, and yet that duo had way more chemistry and heart between them than anything happening in the remake. It's just so flat and lifeless.
Beyond that, it's also really dumb. Utah just stumbles his way through his FBI case, just so happening to pick the one set of guys that he thinks could be the master criminals, not because of anything they did but simply because, "these are the richest guys here on the waves." That's the kind of FBI work any analyst could have done from a desk, and then some operatives out in the field could keep an eye on the guys, from a distance, never letting them know they were being tracked. Instead, Utah forces his way into their ranks, stumbling through in the most obvious fashion, and they just... let him.
The film does try to play it off by eventually having the criminals reveal, "hey, we knew you were a cop all along, we just hoped we could turn you." But that makes no sense because they never actually have any discussions about anything even vaguely related to their criminal lives. A simple talk of, "hey, so, how do you feel about institutional capitalism and the way it grinds down the middle class?" would have done more legwork for the story than anything these vapid douche-bros say. The film wants to treat the extreme sports they perform as some kind of metaphor for their way of being -- "to ride a wave is, like, being close to god" -- but it neither says this, by having the guys comment on it even subtly (and subtle would be good as subtext is better than text), or by having the actors really perform like they just had a spiritual experience. It doesn't work.
Because of this, the stunts -- pretty as they are, sometimes -- come across as entirely lifeless. They're stunts performed simply for the sake of hitting that "required action scene" meter every few minutes before the film goes back to wandering through its own story in a daze. I did think some of the extreme stunts were interesting (if not well shot, to be honest) but there needed to be more to this film than some pretty vistas (otherwise, as I alluded to before, it comes across as just a pretty but empty travelogue).
Plus... I know this is pedantic, but am FBI agent shouldn't be on this case. It made sense in the original film for an FBI agent to be after a bunch of California surf bros when the FBI is a domestic agency and bank robbery absolutely falls under the kinds of cases the FBI handles. That's their whole jurisdiction. But the FBI wouldn't get involved in international crime (that should really be the CIA or, more realistically, Interpol) and they absolutely wouldn't be the lead on a case of a Treasury plane being robbed (even if, technically, the plane would be U.S. "real estate") as that falls under the purview of the Treasury (i.e. the U.S. Secret Service). I get that Utah was an FBI agent in the original film, but the second you move the action to Europe you've completely ruined the whole concept of your film. It just doesn't work.
Frankly, nothing about this film works at all. The acting is trash, the plot is nonexistent (and falls apart even under mild scrutiny), and the action is ho-hum )when it happens at all). Considering the far better original, as well as the whole of the Fast & Furious franchise, this is a remake that simply didn't need to exist. All of the studios involved clearly thought they could make their own Fast & Furious but they failed to understand why that film (or the 1991 original movie) worked. They would have been better off not trying at all.