Scene from Point Break remake

Photo Reiner Bajo/Courtesy of Warner Brothers

Point Break: Pointless Remake

| published January 16, 2016 |

By Maggie Nichols, Thursday Review contributor

I love remakes. They can be fun…loads of fun. I especially love reboots, which are a species of animal somewhat different from the traditional remake, but for which the DNA is the same.

The most recent Batman films are reboots of impressive quality and grandeur. And they have offered improvements to the previous works of directors Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher. Burton and Schumacher each did many things well, and I had no complaints about Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight (sorry, folks, George Clooney did not fit the bill at all in 1997’s Batman & Robin). The Nolan Brothers (Christopher and Johnathan), not only successfully rebooted the series, but they introduced a new realism to the films without sacrificing the graphic novel/comic book tone and mood. That made films like Batman Begins and The Dark Knight not only highly watchable, but also—all things considered—better movies.

But some things do not require a reboot, or even a remake. Why fix what was on-the-mark and on-target the first time around? What’s the point? Example: Director Ericson Core and screenwriters Kurt Wimmer and Rick King’s retrofit of the classic 1991 film Point Break, starring Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey.

Sadly, I went in with low expectations for the new Point Break, and still found myself unhappy with the overall result. Not that the film lacked some of the same rowdy action and bone-jarring stunts that made the first one great. And this new version has been updated to include lots more intense extreme sports and high tech thievery. But it just doesn’t feel right, and we seem to be trampling on the hallowed ground and sturdy legacy of the 1991 movie, which was directed by Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker; Zero Dark Thirty). Something’s lacking, and I don’t just mean in the over-the-top testosterone version from 14 years ago.

The plot is basically the same, and again, I have no complaints about that: a freshly graduated FBI agent is injected undercover into a band of athletes and aficionados of extreme sports (familiar?) in an attempt to discover whether it is the same tight-knit gang responsible for numerous high-tech, high-powered robberies and bank heists—some of which are wreaking havoc on the financial markets and threatening to topple businesses. Sort of Anonymous Meets Die Hard, or something like that.

But the problem—almost from the start of the movie—is that everyone is a cardboard cutout character. The movie is heavy on action and intensity, but nearly devoid of motivations and character development. An example, if there ever was, of why special effects and stunts too often trump logic and plot. Add to that a storyline which is confusing at time, and other times downright ludicrous. Scenes are cobbled together in a jarring sequence, often with little or no cohesion, and with a strained attempt to tack one stunt scene onto the next. “Suspension of disbelief” requires that we have some grain of confidence that what we are watching could happen in the real world, and that the characters feel genuine. Also, one of the key elements of the original was chemistry, that time honored tool which says we get addicted to the interactions of the key players. Call me biased, but Swayze, Reeves and Busey had chemistry...enough to spare.

The movie has a few giggles and gags worth watching, but not anything that can’t wait until you can watch it for free on cable or satellite.

In short: a wasted effort at a remake. I've always liked Kathryn Bigelow’s movies, gritty and sometimes hard to watch though they are. This one convinced me she is fine red wine compared to this half empty can of Mountain Dew.

Related Thursday Review articles:

In the Heart of the Sea; Maggie Nichols; Thursday Review; January 5, 2016.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens; Michael Bush; Thursday Review; December 26, 2015.