Thursday, October 13, 2016

When a Movie is Almost Good

I haven’t watched many movies lately, but one that kept nagging at me recently was the remake of Point Break.  Now, before I get started, let me just say that I’ve heard and read all of the reviews of it and I know how bad they were.  I was already let down by that because I love (LOVE) the first Point Break and so, despite the reviews, I had to see the remake.  I felt like I owed it to the first one and myself as a moviegoer.  And, I admit, sometimes if a film is very poorly reviewed, that piques my interest—weird, I know, but what can I say?  So, here it goes. 

The film opens with fantastic views of two men on dirt bikes in the desert.  They’re evaluating a daring stunt that ultimately turns out tragic for one of them and leaves the other, Johnny Utah (played here by Luke Bracey, Keanu Reeves in the original), scarred for life and feeling responsible.  Right away, I see that this film is going to be a lot of style and a little substance (sigh).  The acting is only average, the writing, probably slightly below and the scene transitions quickly, possibly a little too quickly to seven years later.  We don’t get a chance to fully take in what has just happened and what it has done to our protagonist, and this is a theme that is resonating throughout.  I’ll explain more about that later.

We next see Utah training to work as a Field Agent for the FBI.  He is studying the FBI’s most recent headache: a series of fantastic robberies carried out in death-defying capacity by daredevils who distribute the stolen goods to the less fortunate.  A former motor cross star and extreme athlete, Utah immediately comes to the conclusion that the robbers are, too.  His instructor has a few lines before simply saying “Okay,” and taking this rookie’s word, giving him a gun, and a pass to seek out these Robin Hood-like thrill seekers.  Not sure if that would be policy, but the plot has to keep moving somehow.

Utah finds himself in France and in a matter of a couple of short, choppy scenes, is surfing waves in the middle of the ocean during a competition while people party and watch from an immense yacht.  The scenery and cinematography is absolutely gorgeous here, but the focus is too much on the action and for too long.  There are a couple of other skydiving and rock-climbing scenes where this takes place again.  The scenery is beautiful, but I can only look at it so long before I want story, characterization, and depth.

Back to the surfing scene in the ocean, it becomes choppy and confusing again when focusing on story because the next thing we know, Johnny is underwater, faint and clearly about to drown until we see an unknown dark angel pull him from the depths and bring him back.  There is a similar scene in the original but it is a woman, Tyler (Lori Petty), who saves Johnny.  Here, it is none other than Bodhi (played by Patrick Swayze in the original, Edgar Ramirez here) who saves Johnny’s life.  We are briefly introduced to Bodhi, who is still an ocean-washed, philosophical surfer in this remake, but played very differently by Edgar Ramirez, who, I believe, is the best part of this remake.   

The writing, as I mentioned, is not great, but Ramirez does the best job with what he is given.  There is a seriousness to his stare, an intensity in his eyes, a lovely inflection in his Venezuelan accent.  He is intelligent, grave, and confident.  I believed him as someone these men would follow, as someone anyone would be drawn to.  I just wish there had been more to his scenes to get to know him better.  Most of his lines are philosophical in nature, and short at that. 

On the flip side, Utah is not nearly as serious as he was portrayed in the original, and I think that was one thing that was lacking with him. 

Now to the love interest.  Tyler was the original.  She was tough, straightforward, didn’t buy into Bodhi’s philosophies, and believed “big wave-riding is for macho assholes with a death wish.”  In other words, she carried a logic of her own.  Here, the female is given a more exotic name of Samsara.  She hangs around Bodhi and the rest, takes part in big wave riding and with her long, flowing hair and dive from the highest part of a yacht into an ocean at night, she has an ethereal, gracefulness about her.  Johnny, of course, is immediately smitten.  What is her part in this?  Well, that’s another thing I like about this remake.  Later, after another bank heist in which most of Bodhi’s friends are killed by Johnny and his fellow agents, it is discovered that Samsara was working with Bodhi the whole time.  She not only bought into Bodhi’s philosophies, she worked with him.  She might very well have been his lover, still, but that is not something the film delves into and I wish it had.  It would have deepened her character, made her part in the robbery clearer and, I think, more appealing.  But, we will never know.

The film ends much like the original does, with Utah allowing Bodhi to surf into a magnificent storm to his death instead of facing trial for his crimes, but again, choppy dialogue and scenes that focus too much on style get in the way. 

The film had a few good points—like I said, the different take on the love interest was appealing and Edgar Ramirez is worth watching, but the intense focus on scenery and style far overshadowed what the story could have been, thereby proving that too much of something can be just that—too much.