Saturday, 9 January 2016

Point Break (2016) - Movie Review


What is it about crime flicks that make them probably the most widely referenced and quoted of any genre? Even if you’ve never seen a Lethal Weapon film, chances are you’ve heard someone say “I’m getting too old for this shit” at least once in your life. Among the more widely influential would be 1991’s Point Break, which established a blueprint that would be followed by every film involving a cop/agent going undercover and making a connection with their target. Sure, it hasn’t aged well as a result of how much it’s been copied, not to mention its 90’s surfer musings about finding that rush, but it’s still a decent film in its own right. Can’t go wrong with Keanu Reeves giving one of his better performances and Patrick Swayze as the equally charismatic and recklessly thrill-seeking antagonist. So, naturally, it was going to get a remake at some point, and apparently no-one wanted to compete with it because this was the only film to be released come New Year’s Day. Or maybe it was because they didn’t want the shame of having to be connected to it in any way, even if just by the release date. Even though the real answer should be pretty damn obvious, let’s take a look just to be sure: This is Point Break.

The plot: Rookie FBI agent and former extreme sports athlete Johnny (Luke Bracey) is assigned to track down the culprits behind a series of crimes involving impressive athletic feats. He soon links them to Bodhi (Édgar Ramírez) and his team who trying to complete the Ozaki 8, a series of ordeals meant to push the human body to its limit and honour the forces of nature. As Johnny goes undercover and infiltrates Bodhi’s crew, he soon develops a certain bond with him, making his superiors question whose side he’s really on.

Calling this a “remake” of the 1991 film of the same name is extremely generous. Sure, the film keeps adding in cute little throwbacks to that film, like the masks of ex-Presidents used in the bank robbery or the classic ‘shooting at the sky in anguish’ scene; otherwise, this is pretty much a completely different film. Kurt “I give good wife” Wimmer has never been that good at remakes, considering how Total Recall turned out a few years ago, and only seems capable of being “inspired by” original works. Translation: It’s always insanely derivative. If anything, this comes across more like a remake of The Fast & The Furious than anything else, which given how director Ericson Core worked as DOP for that film makes some sense. Oh, and Fast & Furious 7 being so freaking lucrative last year probably had something to do with it as well. There’s even a scene set at an outdoor dining table that is almost shot-for-shot taken from the F&F series; that’s how little they’re trying to hide it.

Well, if they’re going to go that route, then maybe they can at least emulate what made those films so entertaining, right? Think again. Sure, Core and Wimmer aim for the same ballparks with the emphasis on action set pieces and the trust made between characters, but they fall pretty damn short. In terms of the action, I will give credit where it’s due in that Core definitely had the right approach with using actual extreme sports athletes for the stunt work. However, while the emphasis on what is actually on screen is appreciated, it kind of falls short because of two main concerns: The superimposing and the framing. Even though they use real-life athletes for the stunts, they also very conspicuously superimposed the heads of the actors onto their bodies. It gets seriously distracting when you can plainly see that Luke Bracey was nowhere near that giant wave. Then there’s the fact that this film seems determined to ignore its own plot; hell, the majority of the film feels like an overlong extreme sports video that should be playing on monitors at my local surf shop.

Of course, action scenes are hard to get invested in when the characters are this fucking bland to begin with. I don’t know how but Wimmer was managed to make these characters fell even more 90’s than the ones in the actual 90’s film. The whole Osaki 8 barely-counts-as-plot and Bodhi and his team’s attitudes towards it; it all absolutely reeks of surfer dude pretence about saving the environment, like a desperate attempt to dig up the corpse of Flower Power. Also, much like those moronic 90’s stereotypes that this film seems to be obsessed over re-creating, these clowns spend the majority of the film sitting comfortably on the money from corporate sponsors. Now, ordinarily, this would be excusable because these are obviously the bad guys… except they aren’t. We are meant to sympathize with these eco-terrorists, given how they are given the lion’s share of screen time as opposed to people like Angelo (Ray Winstone), who are actually doing the right thing. Then there’s Johnny, who the film insists has an arc involving not taking responsibility for deaths that aren’t his fault. Problem is that not only is the original death most definitely his fault, but he then proceeds to put other people’s lives in danger as the film goes on. Other than a blander than Styrofoam Teresa Palmer, there really isn’t that much else to comment on in terms of ‘character’.

Aside from the laziness involving writing, there seems to be a lot of easy ways taken out in pretty much every area of production apart from the approach to the action scenes. Core, who also serves as cinematographer, seems to be stuck in the F&F mindset, because oh boy does this film love shots of scantily-clad women dancing at parties. Of all the things to get exactly right from that series, why oh why did they go for the lecherous camera work? Then there’s the music, and this is where I officially reach the level of disappointed. The guy in charge of music here is Junkie XL who, among films like Man Of Steel and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, also served as composer for Mad Max: Fury Road. Yeah, those infectious drums and fire-spewing guitar solos? You have this guy to thank. Here, by contrast, is probably some of the laziest uses of soundtrack I’ve come across in a while. Gold On The Ceiling is an awesome song, and it probably could’ve made some use as the backdrop for a sports stunt, but just playing the song from start to finish does not good integration make.

All in all, while green screen-less stunts are welcomed, they aren’t worth having every other aspect of the production be severely cheapened. The writing is full of even more 90’s stoner faux-philosophy than the original ever managed, the acting is amazingly wooden, the music is uninspired and really disappointing coming from someone like Junkie XL, and the action scenes are crippled by the fact that you can clearly see that the actors aren’t doing them. What a way to start out the year, although in fairness this was more annoying and kind of dull than anything else. I’m more than willing to accept that worse will come my way over the next 12 months.

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