Point Break makes no sense. It doesn’t seem to be trying very hard to make sense, either. A remake of the improbably fun 1991 crime thriller of the same name, 2015’s version only serves to inject excess adrenaline into this updated version of an already flimsy conceit.
After his future in the world of extreme sports takes a cliff dive, Johnny “Utah” Brigham completes a GED, undergraduate, and law degree before entering the FBI’s training academy. His experience becomes an essential tool when a gang of skydiving thrill-seekers steals a pallet-load of stacked cash from a cargo plane, only to cut the ties and rain money on the poor villagers below. It somehow takes the expressionless lunk Utah to consider that fellow extreme athletes are behind these Robin Hood heists.
Not that the investigation really matters. Utah is assigned to gather information on these philanthropist adrenaline junkies but instead falls into their world of no limits. Their leader, Bodhi (Joy actor Édgar Ramírez assuming the role more memorably played by the late Patrick Swayze), is trying to complete the Ozaki Eight, a series of boundary-pushing stunts that even the concept’s originator is said to have died attempting.
Accomplishing all eight feats will allow the triumphant athlete to reach Nirvana or help all mankind, or something else the movie is not particularly interested in explaining. Why some of these exploits involve felonies and others do not remains a mystery. The plot’s true function is to serve as a device to incorporate an assortment of death-defying action scenes, with motocross, snowboarding, rope-free rock climbing and wingsuit flying included alongside the surfing scenes for which Point Break is often remembered.
Much of the stuntwork is admittedly breathtaking, although the stiff way in which the action is shot removes any sense of real danger or tension. Director Ericson Core (who also pulls double-duty as Point Break’s cinematographer) alternates between distant wide shots that place his actors as tiny figures against an expansive outdoor backdrop, and close-ups that fail to provide context for the unfolding action.
The cinematography more closely resembles an extreme sports sizzle reel (and surely Core has some epic, new material for his own reel) than dramatic action filmmaking. There’s little sense of which full-body jumpsuit belongs to who, no clue as to why completing these tasks advances anyone’s agenda and no reason to get emotionally invested with these cliché-spouting dudebros.
Australian soap opera star Luke Bracey steps into the befuddled, macho role made famous by a post-Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure Keanu Reeves. In Bracey, Point Break has a poor excuse for a Reeves stand-in, a thoroughly uninteresting on-screen presence with none of the goofy, vacant-eyed charms of his predecessor. With Reeves, you got the feeling that while thinking is quite difficult, he’s doing as much as his head will allow. Bracey, on the other hand, may have nothing going through his head at all.
The major issues in Point Break rest with the uninvolving script written by Kurt Wimmer (screenwriter on the remakes of The Thomas Crown Affair and Total Recall), that can’t seem to decide which characters to idolize and which to villainize. Both Utah and Bodhi find themselves responsible for multiple deaths, yet the story positions their increasingly daring (read: stupid) stunts as acts of bravery.
Meanwhile, the characters surrounding both Utah and Bodhi are devoid of unique personalities, essentially acting as interchangeable henchmen and authority figures for the men to lead into danger and then ignore.
Point Break’s biggest sin isn’t the idiocy of its plot or the tediousness of its execution, but the fact that it is dull. Devoid of any interesting conflicts, the film languishes terribly between its action set pieces. As remarkable as many of the highlight stunts are, they fail to comfortably fit into a ridiculous, poorly constructed story. Point Break would rather chase visceral thrills than let any of its characters act like human beings.
The Point Break remake dials up the adrenaline with epic stuntwork but fails to weave any of the action into its incomprehensible and boring plot.