The new version of “Point Break” is pretty dumb. But in other ways, it’s not like the original at all. For example, it’s tedious. Say what you will about Kathryn Bigelow’s Keanu Reeves/Patrick Swayze 1991 cult favorite (for example, that it’s pretty dumb), its action scenes sizzle. This remake, written by Kurt Wimmer (of the “Total Recall” remake), keeps the dumbness, increases it tenfold, and pummels the audience with weak, pointless action. It’s hard to imagine making a worse “Point Break” without doing it on purpose.
Johnny Utah, an “extreme sport polyathlete” turned fledgling FBI agent, is played by Luke Bracey, an Australian piece of driftwood with a face painted on it. In this version, Johnny Utah is haunted by the events of the movie’s first two minutes, when he and his motocross biker friend were doing dangerous things on the tops of pointy mountains, and then the friend fell to his death, as one does. A lot of movies begin with something like this so the protagonist can feel haunted and self-doubting afterward, but the rushed, perfunctory manner with which “Point Break” gets it out of the way has the air of an assignment that wasn’t started until the night before the due date. That it has no bearing on the rest of the movie and could have been omitted entirely just makes it funnier.
The real story, seven years later, is that there’s been a series of high-profile robberies that new FBI moper Johnny Utah thinks are the work of people who, like him, are extreme sport polyathletes. One heist involved skydiving, for example, and a bank job required skilled motorcycling. What’s more, the thieves keep distributing the money rather than keep it. Johnny Utah believes they’re trying to accomplish a series of eight metaphysical challenges outlined by a renowned extreme guru, and the robberies are just, I don’t know, for fun. These crooks don’t want money. They want nirvana.
Based on this hunch and zero evidence, the FBI sends Johnny Utah to infiltrate the group. He knows (well, he guesses, which is the same thing in this movie) where they’re going to be next: in the middle of the ocean, surfing giant waves caused by a rare weather pattern. Sure enough, he’s quickly able to befriend the group’s leader, a smug ramekin of patchouli oil named Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez), who saves his life when the surfing goes awry. This leads to an exchange of dialogue that exemplifies the movie’s irritating hippie-dippy philosophy:
JOHNNY UTAH: I owe Bodhi for pulling me out.
THE GIRL OF THE GROUP: We don’t believe in “owing.”
Ugh, shut up. Shut up about being One with Nature and choose your own destiny and “I love the sea and its power” and “A man who pushes boundaries ultimately finds them” and all the rest of your sage, hollow platitudes. Shut up and snowboard down a cliff face already.
Johnny Utah, Bodhi, and the gang — they have names like Roach, Grommet, and Chowder, and the girl is named Samsara (Teresa Palmer), but she’s only there sometimes — trot the globe doing more extreme stunts, some of which involve grand larceny and some of which do not. Director/cinematographer Ericson Core (“Invincible”) captures the awesome beauty of the film’s many natural settings, ranging from the snowy Alps to the tropical forests of Venezuela. If this were a National Geographic travelogue, it would be stunning.
Unfortunately, it’s a narrative film with flat characters and a low-stakes plot. The trouble with portraying the robbers as non-greedy, non-evil thrill-seekers is that who cares if the FBI ever catches them? They do finally start killing people in the course of their work, justifying the enormous efforts of Johnny Utah and his support team, but it feels like an afterthought. For the most part, the “villains” don’t seem villainous — but they don’t seem like Johnny Utah’s chums, either. The inevitable moment when Johnny Utah must choose between doing his duty and protecting his new best friends rings as false as everything else. The only plausible explanation is that this was all a ruse to make us appreciate the original “Point Break” more. It didn’t work, but I respect the attempt.
D+ (1 hr., 53 min.; )