“Road House” and “Point Break” are probably on cable right now. In fact, there’s a good chance you’re watching one of them. If so, you’re well aware that two of the most deliriously absurd, relentlessly enjoyable action films of the late-1980s/early ’90s share a star: Patrick Swayze.
The late actor’s characters in each – Dalton in “Road House,” Bodhi in “Point Break” – are iconic, and deservedly so. Bodhi is not the only memorable character in “Break” – Keanu Reeves’s Johnny Utah and Gary Busey’s Angelo Pappas have spawned oodles of memes and way too many GIFs.
But let’s not forget that for all its absurdist charm, “Point Break” also is a ridiculously well-made film by Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”).
Perhaps it is respect for Bigelow that led the filmmakers behind the 2015 remake of “Point Break” to treat the original film with mind-numbing seriousness. This is a complete misread of what makes the Swayze version so irresistible to so many, and it’s one of many reasons why this new film is a major waste of time.
Taking the place of director Bigelow is Ericson Core. His background as director of photography for the original “Fast and the Furious” is clear from the film’s opening scene – a Mountain Dew commercial-esque bit of motorcycle emptiness.
And indeed, Core knows how to oversee an action sequence. There are a handful of stunning shots, specifically an early stunner in which a giant block of money is set free in the sky, raining dollars on a poverty-stricken Mexican town below. Sadly, however, there only are a handful of these moments. An even larger issue is the boredom that accompanies Johnny Utah and Bodhi. They are rendered so dull, so unmemorable and so dry that they barely register at all.
Yet this is not the fault of stars Luke Bracey and Édgar Ramírez. Ultra-blonde Bracey’s Johnny Utah is still in the early stages of becoming an FBI agent as the film opens. With a background as a YouTube sensation daredevil, his name is well-known, even to the gruff FBI director who questions his commitment (played by the always reliable Delroy Lindo).
Utah soon realizes that a series of death-defying crimes may have been committed by a team of extreme sports athletes seeking to complete a series of physical ordeals known as the Ozaki 8. (Still with me?) And this leads him undercover … and to Bodhi, of course.
Ramírez – star of Olivier Assayas’ great 2008 miniseries “Carlos,” a biopic of Carlos the Jackal – has the unenviable task of taking on a character that, as played by Swayze, oozed charisma. His Bodhi does not. Instead he is a marginally interesting tough with a cool wardrobe, a lame backstory, and a remarkable ability to move on quickly as his extreme-sports friends die along the way.
Particularly flawed is the decision to seriously downplay Bodhi and company’s robberies, a highlight of the original.
(Who can forget the masks of the “Ex-Presidents”?) Even worse is the contrived positioning of the gang as X-Games Robin Hoods stealing from the banks to give to the poor.
Yet the film’s worst offenses go back to Utah and Bodhi. In Bigelow’s hands, Utah’s clear idolization of Bodhi makes his guilt over lying to his new friends quite powerful. Here, Utah and Bodhi feel more like a couple of bros. No more, no less.
Other offenses include a seriously awful treatment of female characters – roughly two women speak during the entire film – and a complete waste of Ray Winstone’s Pappas. Winstone is a fine actor left here to grunt and squint; at least give the man Busey’s “meatball sandwiches” line.
Skip “Point Break” 2015 and rewatch Bigelow’s original. Or sit back, search for “‘Point Break’ memes,” and remember why you once cared about Bodhi and Utah.
Director: Ericson Core
Starring: Luke Bracey, Édgar Ramírez, Teresa Palmer, Ray Winstone, Delroy Lindo
Running time: 113 minutes
Rated: PG-13 for violence, thematic material involving perilous activity, some sexuality, language and drug material
The lowdown: A young FBI agent infiltrates a team of extreme sports athletes he suspects of masterminding a string of unprecedented, sophisticated corporate heists.