Found my Breaking Point in movie remakes

When it come to the nostalgic classics of yesteryear, you know what doesn’t necessarily spring to mind as a movie that was in desperate need of remake for a fresh audience. If you guessed anything but Point Break; dude… what the hell. As I mentioned last week in my post about stupid naming conventions when it reboots, I’m seriously wondering why thought it was nessesery to bring back Point Break at all.

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While not a movie of the same caliber as Robocop, Terminator or Star Wars. Point Break was still a movie I personally really enjoy, as do Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg apparently. It’s one of those classic actions movies of that 90s era, but even going back and watching it recently it still holds up pretty well. It’s filled with character, charm and solid action scenes, as well as a number of pretty good performances. So maybe those are the reasons a studio decided to remake it, the sad reality is though, the remake simply lacked all of those positives that I listed about the original. In fact, the remake is almost aggressive in its mediocrity.

The original Point Break was the story of a straight laced young F.B.I. agent investigating a group of bank robbers called the Ex-presidents. Thanks to the insight and unusual theories of his new partner, Angelo Pappas, he starts learning to surf in order to try keep an eye on the other surfers on the beach who may be the Ex-Presidents based on one of them leaving some physical evidence at a scene of a crime. y’know police work.

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The thing that makes the first Point Break work though is that the two stories end up meeting in the middle. While continuously being shown to be working on the case, Keanu Reeve’s character is seen to be falling in love with both a woman he meets and her lifestyle as a surfer. He makes friends with Patrick Swayze’s character after the two bump into one another on the beach. There is a rapport between the two as Utah comes to gain respect for Bodhi and his way of life.

It’s after a red herring that Reeves’ character comes to the conclusion that Bodhi and his friends are the Ex-President and, while he has some reservations about it, he does his job and finds out which bank they’re going to hit next. He does his job. I bring this up because… well I’ll get to that. The connection between the characters is earned and the friendship and betrayal of that friendship hurts all the more come the movie’s climax. Basically the movie earns its high points and its ending.

It’s a movie of duality, it shows both the pretty and ugly sides of both lives Utah finds himself between. Gary Busey being extremely likeable as his partner, and John C. McGinley is hilariously over the top as the angry police captain. Both Bodhi and “Warchild” show the good and the bad of the surfing people too. There is no ready answer for Utah, and his path through the movie is a very believable one. It’s actually a pretty great movie that has defined arcs and genuine moral dilemma between Reeves and Swayze’s characters towards the end. It makes it all the more frustrating that the remake turned out the way we all expected it to.

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Johnny Utah of the 2016 movie starts off as a Youtube personality, riding his dirt bike to sell energy drinks. He is an adrenaline junkie, one who immediately gets his best friend killed by making an insane jump. Like across a mountain a thousand feet in the air. Cut to seven years later and the character (who has dropped the Utah from his name seeing as it was a Youtube handle, and yet everyone insists on still calling him by it) is now a prospective FBI agent.

Say what you want about Keanu Reeves’ acting ability, he is worlds apart from Luke Bracey who plays the character in the remake. This Utah is filled with angst and sense of guilt over the death of his friend, and apparently that is his sole focus for becoming an FBI agent. The Bohdi character has changed even more. Rather than being Swayze’s hippy dippy surfer dude who robs banks to supplement his lifestyle. The new Bodhi is a eco-warrior/extreme sports junkie, who is trying to complete the ‘Osaki 8’, a series of extreme sports challenges invented by some kind of extreme sports Gandhi. While completing these challenges, Bodhi and his group commit acts of eco-terrorism which include destroying gold mines and showering third world villages with diamonds.

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While Edgar Ramirez plays a more interesting and intense character that New Utah, he is no Patrick Swayze. The movie treats this Bodhi with an extreme level of reverence, making him into some kind of spiritual leader, one who draws everyone around him into his fold, including the new Utah. It’s kind of annoying, because while Swayze’s Bodhi was, at the end of the day, a criminal, the new movie almost makes the character out to be a hero and never really paints him as the violent and dangerous criminal that he is.

The only reason the new Utah (Newtah?) finds himself in the fold is because his past as a Youtube corporate shill let him recognise the eco-terrorists were trying to complete the Osaki 8. This apparently makes him the sole person in the FBI capable of investigating these criminals. The thing is, while he is not even a full FBI agent who infiltrates the group completely against the orders of his superior, there is hardly any police work involved in the movie. 80% of the movie is showing the character participating in an assortment of extreme sports challenges including surfing, gliding through a mountain range, snowboarding and climbing up a waterfall.

It’s during these scenes I realised that this wasn’t a Point Break remake, not really. Rather, it was a extreme sports grand tour. A wish fulfilment movie for the wannabe mountain man. Taking its time to show off people doing crazy things in the amazing places around the world, only taking a break to shove some pretentious “we’re destroying the Earth” garbage down the audience’s neck before attempting to murder some people just so happen have made the poor choice to work at the oppressive world government’s gold mine.

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I almost feel like this movie might have started off life as something else, then the studio realised that they could turn it into a Point Break remake just by changing the character names and making some slight alterations to the script. And while I can easily see this movie appealing to a certain kind of audience who enjoys the sports going on in this movie, looking at it objectively as a piece of cinema, it’s just a really bad movie.

Every single one of the characters are paper thin, and none are memorable in the slightest. In the original, you have John C. McGinley getting in Keanu Reeves’ face saying he is “young, dumb and fill of cum”. You have Busey as Utah’s slovenly but likeable partner, Lori Petty is Tylar, the woman who first introduces Reeves’ Utah to surfing and a different way of life. Not to mention all the stuff that goes on between Swayze’s and Reeves’ characters. There are even those two hispanic agents who give Pappas and Utah crap throughout the movie. In the remake, the two main characters wish they had as much character between them as characters who only show up in one scene of the original. Like the kid who sells Utah the surfboard to give an example.

And because the characters lack personality, there is no build up to the confrontations between the two when Utah reveals himself as an FBI agent. In the remake Bodhi being the criminal mastermind is pretty apparent from the very beginning, thus taking from any of the drama that would occur if Utah was to realise it later.

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Other than smug posturing about his way of life (performing extreme sports on the payroll of some eccentric billionaire), the only interaction of any meaning between the two is when Bodhi tells Utah to get over the death of his friend, that he was responsible for his own death when he drove off that cliff. That sociopathic advice is apparently enough for Utah to gain massive respect for Bodhi, not only that it also helps him get over the death of his friend that has been driving him and weighing on his shoulders for the past seven years. Bodhi doesn’t care about anyone, he brushes off his friends deaths as the path they chose for themselves. Ironically, they only die because they follow him like blind sheep.

I simply did not buy it. Which makes the movie’s recreation of one of the most iconic scenes in the original almost offensive. Utah shooting into the sky in frustration is totally earned in the original, he couldn’t bring himself to kill his friend, something that had been build up through the first half of the movie. In the remake, Bodhi has just attempted to murder two innocent people, and Utah himself, while committing a major terrorist act. It falls completely flat, not to mention the final scene between the two. Reeves and Swayze’s fight on the beach is one of both anger and justice as Utah needs to bring Bodhi in for his crimes, it’s only when he appeals to their connection and Utah’s newfound understanding of why someone would want to live like Bodhi, that he lets him go and meet his fate in the ocean, giving up being a cop in that same moment.

Point Break 2016 is a self important extreme sports movie whose plot, characters and general quality are all secondary concerns for the sake of going off to film in some beautiful locations and pushing a tired anti establishment message with no real strength behind it. It’s a massively average movie on its own, but when being viewed by people who were fans of the original, it’s almost a joke calling it a remake. I ended up going back and watching the original again after this purely to remind myself how much better that movie was. Don’t watch this, even out of curiosity.

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