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I don’t understand people who can’t cook. Not wanting to cook, I get that. But all you have to do is follow the recipe. It’s spelled out for you with specific instructions. How do you screw that up? But whatever makes people unable to apply simple formulas in the kitchen also runs rampant in Hollywood, as evidenced by an unceasing stream of failed remakes. If a film was commercially or critically successful enough in that past that a studio wants to spend tens of millions to make a new version, why does it so often seem like those responsible for the new version never even watched the original?
See that guy on the right? That’s what “in shape” used to mean
That’s a question we’ll ponder with this edition of KIMT’s Weekend Remake Throwdown as we pit one of the last great 80s movies, even though it was made in 1991, against a 21
century retread that doesn’t even have enough ambition to be bad. It’s “Point Break” (1991) vs “Point Break” (2015) in a contest which proves once and for all that bigger is not always better.
The 1991 movie is a basic cops ‘n robbers flick with an interesting gimmick, a handful of notable performances, simple yet effective action scenes and a very wise sense of proportion. Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) is the new rookie agent in the Los Angeles FBI office. He gets partnered up with Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey), an agent who’s been around so long he has no flips left to give, and the two of them take on the case of The Ex-Presidents. A team of four bank robbers wearing masks of Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson, The Ex-Presidents have been brazenly and quite proficiently robbing banks in broad daylight for years.
This is what “in shape” means now. How is somebody with a job supposed to get those pelvic ridges?
No one at the FBI knows what to make of them but Pappas has a theory. He’s looked at the evidence and thinks the robbers are surfers who’ve turned to crime to finance their endless summer, so Utah decides to go undercover and infiltrate the surfing sub-culture of LA to see if he can sniff them out. After nearly drowning in his first attempt on the waves, Utah turns to the woman who saved him for surfing lessons. Tyler (Lori Petty) is resistant at first but Utah eventually cons her with a story about his dead parents and she becomes his ticket into the wave-riding world.
Utah falls in love with Tyler, forms a bond with her zen-like former lover Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) and soon locates a group of four surfers that look like prime suspects. But after a raid blows up in his face and gets his butt kicked by a naked chick, Utah realizes that the real Ex-Presidents have been staring him in the face all along. It’s the seemingly noble Bodhi and his three comrades.
When Utah blows his cover trying to foil The Ex-Presidents’ escape after a robbery, Bodhi has Tyler taken hostage to force Utah to help him rob a bank and then get away to Mexico. Which actually works, only for Utah to track him down years later and try to arrest him before letting Bodhi kill himself trying to ride the monster wave he’s been chasing his whole life.
If you’ve ever wondered why Lori Petty was a big deal for about 5 minutes in the 90s, this movie is why. So if you liked “Tank Girl,” thank “Point Break.”
You can probably blame “Point Break” (1991) for kicking off a mini-genre of cops ‘n robbers flicks set in various sub-cultures which only get into the most superficial detail on those cultures. There’s also a scene where Utah goes skydiving with Bodhi and company after Utah blows his cover as an FBI agent which services the plot and the emotional themes of the movie but makes absolutely no logical sense. Besides that, the original is one of those films where everything works together to create an experience much better than it has any right to be.
What Walter Mondale saw in the mirror every morning in 1984.
The most obvious strength of the motion picture is its cast. Keanu Reeves shines as an actor with a profoundly odd affect but undeniable charisma. Lori Petty is sexy and real in a usually-thankless girlfriend role that has a surprising amount of depth. Viewers who only know Gary Busey as a reality TV punchline will feel a little sad at how much talent he displays here. And Patrick Swayze breathes life into one of the most human bad guys you’ll ever see in this sort of motion picture.
The script is also very solid with a legitimate mystery that the audience can follow along as it is believably solved, which then leads into a very sharp closing series of action sequences. There’s also a good bit of humor and enough time is given to building up these characters in the audience’s mind that you’ll actually care what happens to them in the almost-inevitable clichés in this kind of story.
But what’s most interesting about “Point Break” (1991) is how it subverts the conventional hero-villain dynamic. Johnny Utah is a pretty terrible FBI agent who makes one mistake or bad decision after another and spends most of the movie getting outsmarted or outfought by Bodhi, yet without Bodhi every being transformed into some kind of anti-hero. It’s made very clear that whatever personal good qualities Bodhi may have, he is a bad guy who puts others at risk to serve his own selfish ends. It’s a much more nuanced and sophisticated take on its good guy and its bad guy than is normal for this kind of melodrama.
While not a huge hit, “Point Break” was one of those motion pictures that spawned a continuing devotion, which made it no surprise when they decided to foist a remake on us 24 years later. And sadly, it’s also no surprise that “Point Break” (2015) is one of those films where nothing much works and the whole thing is far less entertaining than it should be.
“Point Break” did bromance before bromance was even a word.
The new version opens with Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) as an extreme sports star who leaves that world behind when someone gets killed during a ludicrously dangerous stunt. Jumping years later, Utah is at the FBI academy when he stumbles upon what appears to be a group of extreme athletes committing ludicrously dangerous crimes for no apparent reason. Utah theorizes the group is trying to perform a series of quasi-environmental athletic challenges called the Ozaki Eight. That pulled-out-of-his-butt theory is enough to get trainee Utah assigned to investigate and shipped out to Europe to see if he can find anything out at a mid-ocean surfing party.
Hey, look! It’s that guy from “Scrubs” doing the stuff he did on “Scrubs” before there even was a “Scrubs!”
That’s where Utah meets Samsara (Teresa Palmer), a girl who is just sort of around, and the mysterious and vague-philosophy spouting Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez). Without any evidence or sensible reason to think Bodhi is involved with anything other than pretentious Euro-douchery, Utah follows him to Paris for a session of Fight Club where he so impressively gets beat up that Bodhi invites Utah to join him and his friends in doing the Ozaki Eight challenges.
To no one’s surprise, Utah is then invited to join the group in committing crimes in pursuit of some half-assed karmic balance for succeeding at the challenges. He agrees, only to reveal his FBI identity in mid-crime and try to stop them. Utah fails and “Point Break” (2015) goes entirely off on a tangent where it abandons any connection to the original movie and turns into some weird mash up of a heist flick and “The Fugitive” before circling back to redo the ending of the original on steroids.
The reverse Uncanny Valley of modern CGI. You can practically identify each individual water droplet in the wave.
I really wish “Point Break” (2015) was terrible. Truly bad movies can be fun to mock and occasionally can be admired for attempting to do something compelling and simply failing. However, this remake can be summed up in one word.
It’s supposed to be exciting but it looks like someone just stuck helmets on air mattresses and tossed them out a helicopter.
It’s not exciting. It’s not funny. It only pretends to have a point. The characters are as thin as North Korean toilet paper. The action scenes have all the tension of waiting for paint to dry on a humid day. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It’s just kind of there.
Luke Bracey appears to be a relatively competent actor but whereas Reeves showed himself to be a true movie star in 1991, Bracey shows himself in 2015 to be Just Some Dude. He can say the lines and he’s handsome enough but you could replace him with any of a hundred other actors and it wouldn’t make any difference. Edgar Ramirez looks like he should be doing cologne ads in Belgium.
There’s no mystery. No one except Bodhi could ever possibly be behind the crimes. There’s no love story. Samsara and Utah boink for no particular reason other than being in the same place at the same time. There’s no reason for the viewer to care about Bodhi being caught. He robs multi-national corporations in foreign countries, usually because they’re doing something morally or ethically objectionable or to just give the stolen money to the poor.
The only interesting thing about “Point Break” (2015) is now it so thoroughly screws up some of the most rudimentary elements of storytelling.
In the original, Johnny Utah was a college football star who blew out his knee and became an FBI agent because he wanted to be an FBI agent and he wants to catch The Ex-Presidents because he wants to be good at his job, just like the rest of us. It’s uncomplicated and easily understandable and the movie doesn’t act like Utah becoming an FBI agent is a big deal. In the remake, Johnny Utah runs to the FBI after his extreme sports tragedy but at no time is any explanation offered for why he chose the FBI. Why not the military? Or the Peace Corps? Why not become an accountant? And in the remake, Utah’s drive to be an FBI agent is a very big deal in the story. He’s searching for meaning or validation but it never explains why he’s looking for any of it in the FBI.
Or let’s look at the scene in the remake where Bodhi has escaped and the FBI has to figure out what he’ll do next. We’ve all witnessed this scene in countless other films and TV shows and we all know how it is supposed to work. Little details and bits of information are supposed to be given out in the story leading up to that scene where the hero puts it all together to come up with an answer. Sometimes the audience can figure it out before the hero but the idea is that viewers see the hero assemble the puzzle using previously established pieces. But in “Point Break” (2015), Johnny Utah merely shuffles some papers and pulls information out of thin air to figure out Bodhi’s next move. It doesn’t make Utah look smart because he basically comes up with it by magic. None of the facts or details he uses to find the answer had even been referenced to before in the film.
For non-materialistic seekers of enlightenment, they sure dress purty.
This remake also demonstrates how badly you can screw up your movie with the wrong tone. Bracey and Ramirez as essentially the same ages as Reeves and Swayze were in the remake but they seem much, much older. So much older, in fact, that it’s kind of distracting. The reason is that in 1991, Reeves and Swayze smiled and laughed and showed a variety of regular emotions. In 2015, Bracey and Ramirez are so perpetually sullen and glum and pensive that they seem more like constipated librarians than extreme athletes.
“Point Break” (2015) is far more expensive-looking, with fancier locations and more supposedly spectacular stunts, but its story is so hollow and poorly constructed that none of it means anything. “Point Break” (1991) is far less visually polished and everything happens on a much smaller scale but you actually care about it. This Throwdown goes to the original and leaves me wondering why they just didn’t do a sequel where Reeves’ Johnny Utah had become a Bodhi-like character who had to square off with somebody like Taylor Lautner as the hot new FBI agent. It certainly wouldn’t have been any worse.
If only some mutant piranha started biting.
Starring Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Gary Busey, Lori Petty, John C. McGinley, James Le Gros, John Philbin, Bojesse Christopher, Julian Reyes, Daniel Beer, Chris Pedersen, Vincent Klyn, Anthony Kiedis, Dave Olson, Lee Tergesen and Sydney Walsh.
Yeah. That’s exactly what “Point Break” needed. Brooding. Lots and lots of brooding.
Starring Luke Bracey, Edgar Ramirez, Ray Winstone, Teresa Palmer, Matias Varela, Clemens Schick, Tobias Santelmann, Max Thierot, Delroy Lindo and Nikolai Kinski.
…can exist just a couple hundred yards away from this?