Friday, January 1, 2016
FILM REVIEW OF ''POINT BREAK" (2015)
Sometimes, the best thing a remake can do is remind you how inspired the original was. Kathryn Bigelow’s rambunctious FBI procedural crime thriller “Point Break” (1991) followed a rookie G-man as he investigated a dauntless quartet of bank robbers on a crime spree that sported latex masks of past presidents. Zesty dialogue, dynamic performances, striking surfing footage, and slam-bang shoot-outs propelled this invigorating film through its formula. “Invincible” director Ericson Core, who started out as a cinematographer on actioneers like “The Fast and the Furious,” “Daredevil,” and “Payback,” has helmed a remake every bit as adrenaline-laced as Bigelow’s vintage venture. Indeed, Core and veteran second unit director Mic Rodgers have staged stupendous stunts galore that are ten-times more electrifying than those Bigelow came up for in her tense Los Angeles based beach saga. Comparatively, Core and “Law Abiding Citizen” scenarist Kurt Wimmer have shown the good sense to expand their remake beyond the confines of Los Angeles and set it in a larger-than-life, international arena. Furthermore, the feisty villains in the remake hail from different countries just as their audacious felonies occur in picturesque parts of Italy, Germany, Hawaii, Switzerland, Venezuela, and French Polynesia. If you cannot getaway to these exotic locales, “Point Break” (**1/2 OUT OF ****) is the closest thing you’ll get beyond an atmospheric National Geographic documentary. The second best thing that this remake does is deliver realistic, death-defying, style stunts that will have you cringing in fear or clutching the armrests of your seat with white-knuckled fists.
Extreme sports junkie Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey of “The November Man”) and his best friend, Jeff (Max Thieriot of “Jumper”), have embarked on a freestyle motocross in the rugged Arizona desert. They straddle their dirt bikes with reckless but nimble abandon along the spine of a treacherous mosaic of knolls while a helicopter shoots video of their suicidal shenanigans. The montage of these daredevils careening toward the end of the spine and then leaping their bikes like Evel Knievel across a gap to skid to a stop atop a towering monolith of rock the size of a small helipad is harrowing. Unfortunately, Jeff skids too far, cannot recover, and plunges to his death from the mountain-top. Jeff’s demise thoroughly devastates Johnny. Johnny quits, goes back to school, and then graduates from law school. Seven years later, our hero enters the FBI and finishes the obstacle course at Quantico as if it were a picnic. Nevertheless, Johnny’s boss, Instructor Hall (Delroy Lindo of “Malcolm X”), isn’t sure Utah will fit in as an FBI agent after he completes probationary period.
Meanwhile, an eccentric gang of thieves that has been ripping off millions from companies around the globe with ties to American conglomerates has the Bureau stymied. This intrepid quartet storms the tenth floor of an African diamond company with their bikes and clean sweeps a fortune in jewels. Afterward, they launch their bikes from the tenth floor and deploy parachutes as they descend. These fearless Robin Hood robbers surprise the unsuspecting poverty-stricken natives of Mumbai and shower them with a million dollars worth of diamonds. Later, these thieves raid a cargo plane in flight and release two giant pallets of paper currency in the skies above Mexico. A blizzard of paper descends onto more unsuspecting but ecstatic natives. The FBI is hopelessly baffled by both robberies. Johnny Utah barges into Hall’s office and argues that the felons are extreme athletes. According to our hero, these criminals are trying to complete a gauntlet of ‘Ordeals’ set up by an environmentalist-guru, Ozaki Ono, who died before he could finish them himself. As it turns out, the ring leader of the gang, Bodhi (Édgar Ramírez of “The Bourne Ultimatum”), was the man who was with Ono when Ono died. Roach (Clemens Schick of “Casino Royale”), Chowder (Tobias Santelmann of “Hercules”), and Grommet (Matias Varela of “Easy Money”) are in cahoots with Bodhi. Hall sends Utah to scrutinize these guys with veteran FBI agent Pappas (Ray Winstone of “The Gunman”) supervising him.
Johnny manages to infiltrate the gang after he nearly drowns during a surfing accident. The same thing happened to the Keanu Reeves character in the original. Instead of the gang’s moll saving his life, Bodhi rescues him. Our rookie FBI agent is clearly impressed by Bodhi and classifies him as a Zen warrior in search of Nirvana. Predictably, Utah’s sympathetic attitude puts him at odds with his cynical superiors. Our protagonist accompanies Bodhi’ bunch on an ‘Ordeal’ where they don flying suits and glide through a craggy mountain pass as if they were acrobatic squirrels on aerial maneuvers. The camaraderie between heroic Luke Bracey and villainous Édgar Ramírez isn’t as compelling as it was between Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze in Bigelow’s earlier film. Bodhi surprises Utah because he isn’t interested in keeping the loot as much as giving it to the less fortunate. Utah struggles to convince the Bureau that Bodhi and his cronies consider themselves crusaders rather than criminals. Furthermore, they indulge in their insane antics to see when they will reach ‘point break’ where their fear will make them cowards.
Altogether, the new “Point Break” is only half as good as its superior predecessor. The chief problem is that Core bogs the story down in the eight ‘Ordeals’ that Bodhi and his crew must perform. Literally, the stunts overshadow the story! Unfortunately, the movie degenerates into a surfeit of sensational looking Guinness Book of World Records stunts. Core sacrifices any sense of narrative cohesion because he repeatedly puts the plot on pause to indulge in the aerobatics. Eventually, the new “Point Break” reaches its own point break, and you find yourself wishing that the filmmakers would stop delaying the inevitable finale. The last bank heist delivers a genuine surprise as our hero imperils himself to capture the villain, but by then “Point Break” has worn out its welcome. Although it doesn’t surpass the original “Point Break,” this energetic remake will keep you poised on the edge of your seat.