ZERO STARS/**** Image A Sound A+ Extras F
starring Édgar Ramírez, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Ray Winstone
screenplay by Kurt Wimmer
directed by Ericson Core
by Walter Chaw Not enough can be said about Kathryn Bigelow's action sense. The honkytonk slaughter sequence in Near Dark, from the first moment (when the vampires crest the hill) to the last (when the lone survivor defenestrates), is a triumph of design, of score--including the high lonesome tones of a George Strait classic on the jukebox--and editing and execution. It's that perfect economy of ideas-into-motion that indicates her cult classic Point Break, too--that, paired with absolutely perfect casting, from Keanu Reeves's Everybody's All-American football hero-turned-FBI dude Johnny Utah and Patrick Swayze's blissed-out charismatic leader all the way down to Gary Busey and Lori Petty, the best supporting staff a film about a surf-zen cult-cum-bank-robbing crew could ask for. It's a lovely marriage between ludicrous high-concept and the period immediately following the 1980s, which found the country in a reflective mood, perched there on the verge of upsetting the primacy of film for the coming digital age. Bigelow's Point Break was a showcase for practical stuntwork and, philosophically, a nice metaphor for the excess of the "greed is good"/City on the Hill period drawing to a close. The bad guys rob banks to pay their way to enlightenment. Of course it all ends in tears.
At least, that's one way to look at it. The way Ericson Core and Kurt Wimmer (director and screenwriter, respectively, of the 2015 remake, hereafter Point Break 2.0) see it, Point Break was about ultimate sports and Burning Man existentialism. It's altogether possible, likely even, that the original wasn't consulted in the making of this film, meaning that Point Break 2.0 is based on very bad decisions, an alarming lack of instincts, and a complete dearth of understanding of even the basics of plotting and narrative. I don't want to get too technical about this: Point Break 2.0 is a disaster. It's exactly what happens when bros make a movie for other bros. It reflects the unfortunate phenomenon of accidentally overhearing two endurance bicyclists talk about anything while standing in line at the Chipotle you patronized because you had a coupon. It's that time you went to a film festival and found yourself caught in a four-hour screening of Warren Miller flicks and YouTube compilations of extreme-sports epic-fail GoPro videos. It's one part hipster testosterone opera and one equal part hipster hijacking of Śrāvakayāna's Noble Eightfold Path to Arhat. If you put the Blu-ray in a whiskey barrel to age, in a few weeks you'd get some really awful craft beer you can name cleverly. It's that roommate you had in college who wore Jesus sandals and rock-climbed the outside of the chemistry building. It's that bad.
Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) is a YouTube extreme-sports star who, in the Cliffhanger open, is terribly traumatized by the death of his best friend whilst in the commission of a suicidally bad idea. Jump ahead a few years and Johnny is being recruited by the FBI: Totally Awesome Unit, led Delroy Lindo (Delroy Lindo), who tells Johnny that a recent string of EXTREME crimes is right up Johnny's alley. Johnny is completely nondescript. If people and objects tend to lean towards him in the frame, it's because that's what people and objects do when they're close to a vortex. In no time, Johnny infiltrates Bodhi's (Édgar Ramírez, who deserves better) EXTREME troupe of breakneck ne'er-do-wells by almost dying trying to surf a giant wave off the coast of France. How this bonds them is hard to say. Later, Johnny divines that Bodhi and clan are looking to complete dead Japanese guy Ozaki's eightfold path to enlightenment--that is, eight EXTREME sports trials that honour the forces of nature. THE FORCES OF NATURE, man; there are like, you know, eight of them, man. And [stage whisper] a Japanese guy thought of them. It's faux-sublimity tied to this fetishitic reverence for a Western perception of Eastern philosophy. Bro.
Johnny falls in love with "just live in the moment, man" galchick Samsara (Teresa Palmer), who in the picture's high point tells the Phoebe Cates-in-Gremlins story of a dude who got smoked while protesting Japanese whaling. "Ideas can be powerful," says Johnny. "Not as powerful as a whaling ship," says Samsara. This passes for profundity in a film that also contains such gems as "Ugly is what we do, son" and "You live off the grid?"/"No. On it. But on our own terms." What's astounding about this thing is the belief that a series of EXTREME You Tube/Go-Pro videos would make for a good movie and, moreover, an honourable remake of a cult classic venerated mainly for the clarity of its belief system and its placement at the exact social moment where it made the most sense. The only thing genuinely extreme about Point Break 2.0 is its emptiness. It occurs to me that I would be more forgiving if the action scenes were cogent or exciting. Like the film itself, they're what a computer imagines the world looks like, what people act like, and how physics work. Point Break 2.0 is a lovely illustration of the concept of the "uncanny valley." It almost looks like a movie, but it isn't--it's an algorithm.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
Warner brings Point Break home to regular Blu-ray in a 2.40:1, 1080p transfer that is as perfect as so modern a title would demand, although someone should notify former cinematographer Core that his burnt sienna-and-light blue palette tends to make the interiors look like The Matrix and the exteriors look like Soylent Green. This is not a compliment. Detail is impressively sharp, but everything looks so alien that it's, how you say, distracting as fuck. Anyway, the film is as attractive as it can be here, which works as a pretty stern indictment. The attendant 7.1 DTS-HD MA track is obnoxiously fulsome, with atmospheric effects breaking in every channel. See what I did there? Gold. Eight minutes' worth of HD mini-docs (four in total) talk about the stunts, not in terms of logistics but in terms of how awesome it all is and how you've never seen anything like it and never will again because it's too awesome! "Deleted Scenes" (8 mins., HD) consist of another four vignettes that demonstrate essentially that exposition was not excised from the film. Two trailers for Point Break 2.0 round out the special features. Also available on Blu-ray 3D and 4K Ultra HD, naturally.