Okay, it’s shameful confession time. I saw the Point Break remake, released just a few weeks before this past Christmas, before I saw Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 original. It was always a given that I’d see the original Point Break eventually, but twas a task I had been putting off despite the enthusiastic recommendations of friends (& Nick Frost’s bumbling cop in Hot Fuzz) who rank it among their favorite films of all time. A free movie ticket & a convenient showtime, then, lead me to the curious position of having seen the little-loved remake of Point Break weeks before I saw the original (also on the big screen, thanks to Indywood). The shameful part is that I actually enjoyed the remake. As a dumb action movie packed with bad writing, overwrought performances, and over-the-top stunts, it’s nothing particularly special, but it’s also nothing especially awful either. It’s pretty okay & might’ve even flown under the radar as a half decent genre pic . . . if it hadn’t purported itself to be a remake of Point Break (1991) in the first place. Point Break (1991) & Point Break (2015) are so far apart in terms of style, intent, content, plot, and central philosophy that there’s no reason the 2015 version should’ve bothered calling itself Point Break in the first place. With a couple minor tweaks & a title change it might’ve even been able to sidestep accusations of being a ripoff. The two films are worlds away from one another.
Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break is a laugh-a-minute action vehicle for Keanu Reeves & Patrick Swayze (not to mention wildcard Gary Busey in unhinged Under Siege mode). The script is overloaded with jokes & the mood is surprisingly light considering that its two most tense action set pieces – a police raid & a bank robbery – are some of the most brutally severe I’ve ever seen. The Point Break remake, on the other hand, is easily recognizable as the post-Dark Knight kind of re-imagining that believes a grim, self-serious mood is what the people want in their over-the-top action cinema. It’s a thoroughly dour affair, especially for a film about bank robbing surfers. Just about the only thing that transferred from the original to the remake were the surfing & the homoeroticism (between an undercover FBI agent & the lead criminal).
What the remake does instead of retracing Bigelow’s steps is focusing on & amplifying particular details of the original & turning those isolated aspects into a feature film. The criminals in the original Point Break are really into surfing, but occasionally dabble in a parachute jump or some beachside football. That’s not X-treme™ enough for the remake, which makes a point to include every Red Bull-fueled sport you can think of: snowboarding, base jumping, kayaking, whatever. The bigger difference is in the two film’s philosophy, however. The surfer bros in the original may occasionally muse about “the spiritual side of the sea” or how surfing is “a state of mind”, but at heart they’re just thrill seekers & thieves for whom bank robbing is both an adrenaline spike and a source of income. The remake, on the other hand, posits its “extreme poly-athletes” (ugh) as “eco warriors” (double ugh) who steal from “the system” in order to “give back” to a “dying” planet in some 21st Century version of Robin Hood justice. Their thrill seekers as well, but their main concern is achieving nirvana through cutthroat vigilantism . . . and X-treme sports.
Both Point Break films are, admittedly, quite silly. The difference is that you laugh with the original & laugh at the remake. Kathryn Bigelow’s film is loaded with enough snarky one-liners to give any Joss Whedon script a run for its money and, surprisingly enough, they all land. The 2015 version is funny in a different way. Lines like “A tree falls in the forest & no one puts it on YouTube. Did it ever really happen?” & “So, you live off the grid?” “No, we live on it. Just on our own terms,” are downright hilarious, just perhaps not intentionally so. The action sequences in the 1991 Point Break achieve a kind of shocking gravity bucks the film’s humor in an interesting way. The 2015 Point Break‘s action sequences often play directly into the film’s (unintentional) humor. For instance, my first laugh was when a dude bro fell of a cliff while dirt-biking in a bid to earn sponsorships & YouTube hits. I know that’s pretty harsh of me, bro, but the film never truly earns the right to be taken seriously, so I don’t feel too bad about it.
All things told, the 2015 Point Break is a lot more akin to an X-treme sports version of The Edukators than it is to Kathryn Bigelow’s film. If it hadn’t been pitched as a remake it might have never been greenlit or it might’ve been underfunded, but it also would’ve stood a better chance as a critical success. Watching a bunch of bank-robbing anarchists try to achieve nirvana by skateboarding off a yacht to shitty EDM is pretty damn amusing, but it’s nothing in comparison to what any ten minute stretch of the original achieves. If you have any chance of enjoying Point Break (2015) as is, it’d be in seeing it before you check out its far superior source material. Either that, or pretending it has a different title & functioned as a blatant ripoff. As a standalone product, it’s an occasionally fun trifle of mindless action cinema. As a point of comparison, the outlook is much less flattering.