Movie review: Comparing the ‘Point Break’ films

pbreviewIt can be difficult to distinguish, but there are bad movies … then there are bad movies … and then there are BAD movies. Some bad films are whiny emotional crapfests (try any emotional “family drama” cited as great by critics), while others are just putrid attempts at filmmaking (try “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane” – click here for my review – or try “Freddie Got Fingered”). However, there’s a third category: incompetent remakes. Today I’m comparing the remake of “Point Break” (click here for my review of the original). The remake is a tremendously bad motion picture and even denigrates a character originated by Gary Busey – after his motorcycle crash.

‘Point Break’
(1991; 122 minutes; rated R; directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starring Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey)
‘Point Break’
(2015; 114 minutes; rated PG-13; directed by Ericson Core and starring Edgar Ramirez, Luke Bracey and Ray Winstone)

CAN A REMAKE BE ANY WORSE? I GUESS SO, BUT …

It’s usually bad enough when filmmakers try to translate a book into a movie. You get films that twist facts so bad that they should be called a “pretzel” flick; or you get one that purports to be biographical but leaves important things out (just look how “A Beautiful Mind” passes over anti-Semitism). Still, it gets even worse when Hollywood remakes a film and drops the ball so completely that it falls through the floor. That’s the remake of “Point Break.”

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I’m looking today at the remake because it immediately became the poster child for incredibly incompetent and putrid remakes. This horrible lump landed in 2015 with a belly flop in a cesspool. Ouch. It’s bad. Really, really bad.

pb1The original from 24 years earlier was solid, with the star power of Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves. It wasn’t a great film, but “Point ’91” has some acting muscle to go along with some nice action. It was a cops-and-robbers tale with a twist – the bad guys were surfers robbing banks and the FBI is out to get them.

Fast forward to last year and you the mess that is “Point ’15.” It stinks. It has a plot that isn’t just stupid and paper-thin, the plot is so hollow and vacuous that only an idiot would describe it as a “plot.” There’s no star power; the FBI is a joke; the main character is a inked-out joke(er) and not in a good, “Batman” kind of way; and the bad guys, well, they are absolute zeros chasing after some philosophical nirvana that might only make sense if you thought about it after dropping some acid. Otherwise, why have a fight club in Paris?

Whew! A steaming pile is the most accurate way to describe “Point ’15.”

pb2I know why “Point ’91” was remade. It’s the reasons Hollywood has always done remakes: the original was popular and made money; and there is a current drought of intelligence and creativity in filmmaking because of the pursuit of guaranteed profit. Done before (many times); will be done again (many times).

Today’s biggest actual filmmaking sin is that there is CGI for incredible action scenes and “Point ’15” is eminently watchable because of the vistas in the action sequences (its director is a former cinematographer and it shows with his complete lack of ability directing this film). However, with no foundation of even a smidgen of intelligence, the remake offers nothing and you have to force yourself to keep watching it.

Acting? Doesn’t happen in “Point ’15.” In the original, the lead character “Johnny Utah” is a former college football player who becomes an FBI agent. In the remake, it’s an “extreme” athlete who goes from action in YouTube videos to the FBI. All “Utah” has going for himself in the remake is: a range of expression similar to what you’d get if you ask a duck to explain a mathematical equation; a look that includes tats that are supposed to show how cool he is; and a vacant look as he tries to ponder philosophy that comes off as stunned surprise at the incredible idiocy that is passed as philosophy in the film.

OK, enough. I’ve got a queasy stomach just thinking about watching it again and how I wish I could un-watch it.

Now, here’s a comparison of then-and-now characters in the film:

  • Reeves played “Utah” and Luke Bracey plays him in the remake. Reeves did a good job of conveying his character – energetic FBI agent on his first assignment – and he was engaging and emotional. Bracey doesn’t do any of this as his version of “Utah” doesn’t have … well, any acting or even what appears to be acting. Bracey is just there and taking up space (he wouldn’t even be a good member of a crowd scene shot). Read my original review – click here – to find Reeves’ CV and those of the others in the original. Bracey has an undistinguished career so far with a few television spots and work on “The November Man” in his resume of seven films to date. He was also in “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.”
  • As to the chief bad guy, Swayze wins by a mile over Edgar Ramirez as “Bodhi.” Swayze just bursts with energy (and he sometimes forced it a little too much) in his work, while I guess Ramirez decided he’d do the opposite and not act or convey anything that audience wanted to see. If so, he accomplished that – he does absolutely nothing here. As for Swayze, like everyone else I enjoyed him in “Ghost” and he was watchable in “Road House” (click here for my review). Like other actors in the remake, I won’t dislike the thought of Ramirez in future films, but he’s just stupendously horrible here. Ramirez is actually a Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy nominee (certainly not for this piece of stool) and got it for “Carlos,” a TV mini-series about the 1970s terrorist who gained worldwide fame. Otherwise, Ramirez hasn’t done much from “Joy” to “Wrath of the Titans.”
  • The biggest screw-up of characters is Busey’s original as “Angelo Pappas.” Like Reeves, Busey didn’t do an Oscar-worthy job in the original, but he was fun and did a good job. Ray Winstone plays the character in the remake and, like so many in this film, he’s just there. The character is rewritten poorly and shuttled aside. I don’t know what kind of job Winstone could do, but he has the acting chops to have done better in any other movie than this one. It’s too bad since Winstone was so terrific in one of my favorites – he was Jack Nicholson’s violent lieutenant in “The Departed” (click here for my review) and has 131 credits since his first in 1975 on TV’s “You and the World.”
  • While not in the screw-up class as Busey-Winstone, the female lead in the remake was badly remade. Lori Petty, who you most likely remember from “Free Willy” or “A League of Their Own,” was really good in the original. She brought energy and verve to the character of “Tyler Endicott.” For the remake, the female lead is Teresa Palmer as “Samsara Dietz.” Wow. A really throwaway character that only offers Palmer the chance to do very little work. I don’t know how to judge her from this one and I haven’t seen any of her other 27 credits on TV or film. She was in “Warm Bodies” and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”
  • It’s too bad that part of the FBI supervising agent was so poorly written in the remake (if you read “poorly” anything, then you know I’m writing about the remake). Delroy Lindo plays FBI instructor “Hall” in the remake. He is a wonderful, talented actor and he’s the only one in the remake who showed any sign of life as an actor. He brought passion (but poorly written, his character didn’t allow him to convey anything to the audience) and an excellent screen presence, but there was virtually nothing for him to work with. John C. McGinley was the FBI supervisor “Ben Harp” in the original and did his usually great turn. Lindo would have done as good a job if not better in the original as “Harp” and, unfortunately, there’s no way even someone with McGinley’s talent could have done better with the “Hall” character. Lindo has been in varied films such as “Get Shorty” (click here for my review) to “Gone in Sixty Seconds” to his second film in 1979’s “More American Graffiti” (remember that one?).
  • Finally, there’s absolutely nothing to say about anyone else in the remake. A couple of “Utah’s” sidekicks have the same name in both films, but none distinguish himself. As for the supporting cast, they all should have been looking for a side door of the soundstage to sneak out.

Now, as for the director. He gets convicted of all major film sins here. Simply put, Ericson Core should never be allowed behind a camera again. He was cinematographer for the action hit “The Fast and the Furious” and also directed a couple other motion pictures but doesn’t really have much experience behind the camera with only 19 credits including a few TV shots.

Obviously visuals, not storytelling, is where Core’s strength lies. The look of “Point ’15” is excellent and often stunning (I especially liked the surfing scenes), but Core can’t tell a story, develop a character or put together any of the previously mentioned into a meaningful film. Luckily, as of the writing of this review, he hasn’t directed anything else (or has anything in pre- or post-production). It’s a very sharp point (break): Core stinks as a director.

While “Point ’91” was the 29th film at U.S. theaters in 1991 with $43.2 million, according to Box Office Mojo, “Point ’15” went down the drain to 85th place with just $28.7 million, according to Box Office Mojo. Yes, the original did nearly $15 million more box office 24 years earlier. Take that, “Point ’15.” The other films from 2015 that I’ve reviewed are:

Assorted cast and film notes (via IMDb.com):

  • Directly from IMDb.com: “Bodhi’s name is misspelled on the FBI board as ‘Bohdi.’”
  • Directly from IMDb.com: “In the original 1991 film, James Le Gros played Roach, one of the ex-Presidents; in the remake he plays an assistant director of the FBI.”
  • Finally and directly from IMDb.com: “Teresa Palmer did most of her own stunts, despite this being her first acting job after she gave birth to her son Bohdi.”

© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2016.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without
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full and clear credit is given to Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples
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