Point Break **

A poor remake that proves the old adage that bigger is not necessarily better.

Is it worth $10? No

The original "Point Break" was a well-made action movie that, on the surface at least, teemed with typical macho bravado. That posturing was undercut by a subversive subtext provided by the director, Kathryn Bigelow (who has since become the first woman to win the best director Oscar). The film worked on several levels: as an exciting action movie, a drama with characters one cared about, and as a commentary on archetypal action movies. This is why it remains in our consciousness 24 years after its release.

Now comes the completely unnecessary remake (though, is any remake ever really necessary?) that eschews whatever made the original memorable in favor of bigger, more numerous action sequences that somehow make the film less, not more, exciting than its progenitor.

The plot is basically the same as the original's, though, as is typical with most modern films, a shellac of over-complication has been smeared over the details. Once again, Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey, taking over for Keanu Reeves), a green FBI agent on his first assignment, goes undercover to take down a gang of bank robbing criminals. Once again, he becomes close friends with the gang’s boss, Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez). And once again, things get really complicated and violent.

In the original, the gang was comprised of surfers robbing banks to fund their "Endless Summer," and they were led by a magnetic Patrick Swayze, who spouted new age platitudes and made them sound as if they meant something.

This time around the gang is comprised of a bunch of extreme sports hippies (because surfing alone isn't extreme enough for the remake) who are trying to complete the "Ozaki 8," a fictitious set of trials that if completed, will help attain nirvana. These trials are comprised of several types of extreme sports from wing suit gliding, to mountain climbing, to surfing. You get the idea. The group reasons that since these trials take what Mother Earth has to offer, they have to give back to her, and they do so by first staging elaborate robberies that give to the poor and later by attack mining shipments that they deem have taken too much from the earth.

The plot is ridiculously over complicated, and it doesn’t stop there. Everything is overdone: Utah isn’t simply Johnny’s name anymore, it’s a nickname given to him during his days as a poly-athlete. And he isn’t simply a young FBI agent, he’s a former motocross driver with a tragic event in his past (that owes more than a little debt to the opening of “Cliffhanger”), which somehow made him want to join the FBI(?!). I couldn’t quite connect the dots on that one. Even the term “point break” isn’t a simple surfing term anymore. Here it’s some utter nonsense about a human’s breaking point. Whatever. Where the original had a simple setup that found drama in the complications of the very human characters, this movie deems it fit to find complications in ridiculous, unnecessarily convoluted plot setups and details, and then forgets about its characters completely, leading to a film free of drama, tension, or consequences.

And what of the actors that have taken over the roles from the original? They’re benchwarmers, understudies, and second stringers. Ramirez’s take on the role of Bodhi consists of looking angry. He simply doesn’t have Swayze’s charisma. And Bracey nails Keanu Reeve’s stiffness, but not his odd appeal.

So if there is no drama and no interesting characters, what does the movie have? Action, lots of action. And I’ll admit, much of it is filmed (by director/cinematographer Ericson Core) and edited well (though, some shots are still cut too short), and some of it is exciting and sometimes even breathtaking. But what does all of this action leave you with? Nothing, lots of nothing.

The big centerpiece of this movie features Utah chasing Bodhi on motocross bikes as an (CGI) avalanche tumbles up behind them. It’s a big, loud, effects filled sequence that must have cost a pretty penny to make. But it doesn’t hold a candle to the centerpiece of the 1991 version, which was much simpler and smaller in scale, yet is still more gripping and exciting (and is still one of the best foot chase sequences ever put to film). But why is it better? Because by the time it happens, we are caught up in the characters and the situation, and because Bigelow directed the heck out of the ever escalating chase. Here, without the drama in place, it’s just more empty, loud spectacle.

Empty spectacle can be okay if it’s pulled off well, which it kind of is here. And if pushed, I’ll admit that this “Point Break” is a decent time waster. But why squander so much time and money on a remake if all you can come up with is an okay diversion? One good thing did come from this new version, though – it reminded me to go watch the original again.

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