Action movies possess their own special kind of artistry. While there are numerous techniques in the action filmmaker’s arsenal – jump cuts, montages, hard-pumping soundtracks, body cams – putting them all together with a certain degree of panache and energy takes a very particular kind of filmmaker. Kathryn Bigelow, James Cameron, James Wan, Justin Lin, John McTiernan, even the oft-derided Zack Snyder – these are the masters of the kinetic art form.
Director Ericson Core, however, is not one of those people, as he’s put together one of the most boring action films ever made with Point Break, which base-jumps its way onto Blu-ray this month.
Point Break is a remake of Kathryn Bigelow’s cult classic of the same name, and more or less follows the original’s basic plot. Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) is a rookie FBI agent sent out after a gang of thieves who keep making off with all sorts of cold hard cash, from money to diamonds, in defiance of the law. A former extreme sports champion, Utah believes that the gang is actually a group of thrill-seekers looking to fulfill the legendary “Ozaki 8,” a series of extreme sports ordeals that are meant to honor the forces of nature and bring the follower to Nirvana.
With the help of his grizzled supervisor Angelo Papas (Ray Winstone) and his equally grizzled FBI Instructor Hall (Delroy Lindo), Utah infiltrates a group of eco-warriors led by Bodhi (Édgar Ramírez), whom he very quickly confirms as the leader of the thieves. As Bodhi begins explaining the Way (or the Path, or something like that) to Utah, our novice agent must choose between the enlightenment offered by diving off mountain faces to some kickass bass, or doing his duty as an FBI agent.
The problems of Point Break begin in its inability to summon even the slightest bit of interest in its pretty but dull lead. Luke Bracey makes Keanu Reeves look like a big ball of energetic charisma, as the actor manages to deliver every single line in a surfer-dude monotone that even he does not appear to believe in or understand.
Ramirez fares a bit better as Bodhi, but his spiritualist shtick wears painfully thin after the first hundred times he propounds a confused philosophical reason for springing out of airplanes and raining cash over the populace of an Indonesian city.
The secondary cast, meanwhile, are interchangeable, up to and including Utah’s love interest Samsara (Teresa Palmer), who takes the term “flake” to a whole new level, and Bodhi’s band of bearded eco-warriors whose names I did not even catch. And if you’re looking for the thick undercurrent of homoeroticism that the first film used to such excellent effect, look elsewhere – Ramirez and Bracey all but pound their chests to the defiant chant of “No Homo.”
But Point Break’s real crime is in taking stunts that should be exciting – motocross, free-climbing, snowboarding, wing-suit flying, surfing – and managing to make them profoundly coma-inducing. While occasional shots and sequences pop – the wing-suits were pretty cool – the action in this supposed action film is nothing but a series of fairly static shots and cuts set to music.
There’s no sense of adventure, of energy, of even the slightest bit of excitement in the midst of what are death-defying and impressive feats of human ability. As Bodhi and his team search for enlightenment, the audience slowly dozes off, awaiting action that never comes. I can forgive Point Break for failing at producing interesting characters or even a coherent plot, but not for failing to produce even one continuously interesting sequence of stunts.
Point Break does have some occasionally impressive visuals, and the Blu-ray highlights that in 1080p High Definition, with DTS-HD sound. The features are sparse, however, including deleted scenes, trailers, and four featurettes that give a behind the scenes look at the major stunts in the film. The featurettes include interviews with the stunt men, all of them some of the best extreme athletes in their individual fields, and actually wound up impressing me more than the film itself. I could only wish that the featurettes were longer: each one clocks in around two minutes, with only brief looks at the actual stunts and athletes involved.
The original Point Break is a cult classic, and with good reason. It’s not exactly a good film – it’s campy and ham-fisted – but it never really tries to be anything more. It does not aspire to pseudo-philosophy, or real drama, but rather indulges in the action and the male camaraderie without taking too much time to get introspective about it. It’s also just a damn good action movie. A remake might have accomplished more of the same, or even exceeded the original in intensity and the extremity of the stunts. But this remake only succeeds in reminding us that good action films are fewer and farther between than we thought.
Point Break aspires to be a decent remake, but winds up being one of the most boring action films ever made.