Bigger set pieces do not make for a better Point Break, and Core fails to improve upon the original film in any meaningful way.
After his best friend is killed in a motocross accident, extreme sport star Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) is paralyzed with remorse, and walks away from his adrenaline fueled life (and corporate sponsors). Years later, Utah is training to be a F.B.I. field agent - until a set of interconnected crimes, perpetrated by suspected elite sport enthusiasts, makes Utah's unique background an asset to his superiors. The thieves' reliance on extreme sport equipment to get away, combined with a Robin Hood-like philosophy of giving away everything they steal, leads Utah to believe the criminals are seeking The Ozaki Eight - a (fictional) series of eight ordeals intended to honor the forces of nature (and guide followers to nirvana).
To find his thieving targets, and bring them to justice, Utah returns to the world of extreme sporting - hoping to gain the trust of insiders that could provide useful intel. Accurately predicting the next "ordeal" Utah meets fellow adventure athlete Bodhi (Édgar Ramirez) and is taken in by his crew. However, as Utah spends time with Bodhi and participates in the Ozaki ordeals, the lines between environmentalism, criminal activity, and terrorism begin to blur.
A "remake" of Kathryn Bigelow's 1991 crime thriller, director Ericson Core (The Fast and the Furious cinematographer) attempts to differentiate his version of Point Break with a globe-trotting tale of enlightenment, intricate sport stunts, as well as Édgar Ramirez and Luke Bracey in the roles previously held by Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves, respectively. Unfortunately, bigger set pieces do not make for a better Point Break, and Core fails to improve upon the original film in any meaningful way. The refreshed story struggles to keep extreme sport sequences, character drama, and philosophical rumination, stitched together - making for a surprisingly dull experience (even as brainless escapism).
Core prioritizes extreme sport action over story and character throughout, wedging a trite tale of personal choice, fear, and altruism in between mostly disconnected scenes of Bodhi's crew surfing, snowboarding, wingsuiting, and rock climbing - all in spite of the eight ordeal storyline that should have, at the very least, provided a steady narrative path for the filmmaker to follow. Instead, lengthy scenes of extreme sports leave little room for Core to develop Utah or Bodhi beyond bland caricatures. Bigelow's film was campy but there was a clear trajectory - and character motivations that were earned by onscreen drama. Whether or not Kurt Wimmer's script for the Point Break remake provided a more nuanced narrative, the final film sacrifices believable drama in favor of extreme sport scenes that, worst of all, aren't particularly entertaining to watch.
Core utilized a team of talented and well-known elite athletes for the ordeal scenes but most of the extreme sport footage is chopped to pieces (between disjoined close-ups of Bracey and Ramirez and indistinct wide shots of professionals at work), resulting in heavily-edited (and sterile footage) that pales in comparison to GoPro videos that are uploaded to YouTube. It's not as though Core is unaware of extreme sports' culture of do-it-yourself-videos, as the film even suggests that Utah initially rose to fame as an elite athlete through posting of self-made footage online - culling a large internet fanbase with clips of his athletic feats. By comparison, Point Break's ordeal scenes are smoothed with a Hollywood polish that, in an effort to make the footage look "epic" in scale, rarely conveys the same sense of blood-pumping danger that makes GoPro videos so exciting.
Characterization is equally uninspired, and pales in comparison to the iconic, albeit campy, characters that were depicted in the original Point Break. Core attempts to imbue both Utah and Bodhi with new layers through convoluted messages on topics ranging from personal choice to self-reproach, among others. In particular, Utah is saddled with crippling guilt over the death of his best friend - a plot beat that Core attempts to bring full circle on more than one occasion (with lackluster results).
Whether a fault of the writing, directing, or acting, Bracey (the man who replaced Joseph Gordon-Levitt behind the mask of Cobra Commander in G.I. Joe: Retaliation) falls flat in the lead role - adequately, but unremarkably, delivering one cliché line after another. Where the original Point Break depicted Utah as a former football player, with lingering injuries that hold him back, thrown into the world of hard-core surfers, Core's remake paints Utah as an extreme athlete savant - making it even harder for Bracey to provide a convincing performance. The same can be said for nearly every other member of Bodhi's crew (including Teresa Palmer as Samsara) as well as the Utah's F.B.I. handlers, all of which do very little with already thin roles they're given.
To his credit, Édgar Ramirez does his best to hold Point Break together - successfully differentiating his Bodhi from Patrick Swayze's well-known turn. Unlike Bracey, Ramirez is convincing - as a zen-like athlete capable of tackling the world's most dangerous challenges, a sympathetic mentor looking to help Utah move past fear and guilt, as well as an uncompromising criminal bent on punishing greedy corporations at any cost. Nevertheless, Core undermines the character by bungling Bodhi's philosophy. Once Bodhi introduces The Ozaki Eight, and what it means to him, the film never draws a clear connection between Bodhi's words and his actions - even before he turns to extremism. Ramirez lays a solid foundation to be unpacked throughout the movie but Core rushes the story and (using words from the film) loses sight of his own "line" in the process. By the time the movie reaches its climatic finale, Bodhi's beliefs and Utah's motivations are actually more difficult to reconcile than when each character was first introduced.
The Point Break remake is also playing in 3D theaters and the added depth-of-field is par-for-the-course in post-converted films. Certain shots are enhanced by 3D, especially those set in exotic locales (such as Venezuela's Angel Falls), but the effect is rarely utilized in a memorable or artistic way. 3D doesn't detract, so moviegoers who default to premium tickets, and don't mind the upcharge, won't be hurt by a 3D viewing; yet, since it's already hard to recommend Point Break on its own, it's even more difficult to recommend that anyone pay extra to see the film.
It's understandable why Hollywood was interested in a Point Break remake - given that a "bigger" and "more extreme" version of Bigelow's well-known surfer crime thriller, on paper, might have sounded like a good idea. Unfortunately, nothing about the movie improves on the original film - as the story, characters, and acting, in particular are mundane outlines. That all said, Point Break's inability to deliver on its fundamental promise of adrenaline-pumping action, in spite of well-known extreme athlete consultants, is the movie's biggest disappointment - and, frankly, a massive failure given that story and character development were sacrificed at every turn to service Core's spiceless sport footage.
Point Break runs 113 minutes and is Rated PG-13 for violence, thematic material involving perilous activity, some sexuality, language and drug material. Now playing in 2D and 3D theaters.
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