Point Break

January 7, 2016
Edgar Ramirez & Luke Bracey in 'Point Break' (2015)
Edgar Ramirez & Luke Bracey in 'Point Break' (2015)

There is no shortage of extraordinary nature cinematography in Point Break, but after watching The Revenant, it felt as artificial as a cartoon. The heavy imprint of CGI is all over this film, which is barely more than two hours of eye candy arranged over the flimsiest of plots. Before seeing this movie I would have thought that Ericson Core wasn’t a director but a mobile phone accessory.

Nevertheless, if you’re hungry for towering waves and craggy, snow-capped mountain peaks, with idiots performing death-defying feats, step right up.

Point Break is the story of Johnny Utah (Sydney’s own Luke Bracey), a blonde-haired, chiselled-featured, extreme sports fanatic who joins the FBI, then infiltrates a small group of daredevils who are committing high profile crimes and giving the proceeds to the poor. If this sounds ridiculous there are even greater levels of absurdity to be plumbed. It seems the criminals are trying to fulfil “the Onozaki Eight” – a spiritual agenda laid out by a late, great Japanese eco-warrior, that calls for initiates to undertake eight ‘impossible’ tasks, to give back to the earth that which has been taken from it.

Yes it’s not only schlock, it’s New Age schlock. Presumably, in these eco-conscious times, the intention is to confuse our sympathies, making us see the underlying good in these daring criminals. This is certainly the case with Johnny Utah, who seems besotted with the leader of the group, Bodhi (Édgar Ramírez). The male bonding scenes are arguably more sensual than Johnny’s brief grapplings with the group’s only female member, Samsara (Teresa Palmer, a long way from her home town of Adelaide).

My own sympathies were never at any stage clouded. I loathed Johnny, Bodhi, Samsara and everyone else in this film from the moment they opened their mouths. When they’re not being deeply spiritual they’re hanging out at glamorous doof-doof parties held in luxury yachts and Swiss chalets, funded by a creepy French billionaire.

The only comic relief comes from the inspired idea of having gravel-voiced cockney, Ray Winstone, play an FBI agent named Pappas. This is the clue that suggests the filmmakers see the entire project as one big laugh.

Point Break is a strong contender for the title of “most pointless remake of all time”, as it echoes a film of the same name made by Kathryn Bigelow in 1991, with Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze as Johnny and Bodhi. I haven’t seen this movie, but it’s hard to imagine it was a masterpiece. For Bigelow, who would have her moment of glory with The Hurt Locker (2008), it probably qualifies as embarrassing juvenilia.

Point Break is still nowhere near as pointless as the 2012 remake of Paul Verhoven’s Total Recall (1990), which managed to reincarnate a cinema classic as utter trash. There is, however, a relationship between these remakes in the person of scriptwriter, Kurt Wimmer. A man with ears of pure tin, Kurt is a clichémeister of formidable prowess, but not averse to understatement. When characters expect to die during an outrageous stunt, they turn to each other and say: “See you later.” I imagine it’s a phrase this writer has heard on many occasions.

Point Break
Directed by Ericson Core
Written by Kurt Wimmer, after a story & screenplay by Rick King, W. Peter Iliff & Kurt Wimmer
Starring Luke Bracey, Édgar Ramírez, Ray Winstone, Teresa Palmer
Germany/China/USA, rated M, 114 mins

Published in the Australian Financial Review, Saturday 9th January, 2016.