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Point Break

Point Break

Remembering the classic as the new one rolls in on January 1st.

There has been no bigger year in cinema for Hollywood remakes and sequels of varying quality where no classic seems safe from the dreaded modern update. The much loved 1991 surf action thriller Point Break is next on the the agenda.

While surfing and spirituality was the focus in the original, the new take on this outdoor adventure drama brings the viewer into the world of extreme sport adrenaline seekers who participate in such high-risk activities as base jumping, wingsuit flying and harsh terrain motocross. Is this enough to make a feature with enough human drama? While surfing crushing 70 foot waves is also highlighted, it is not looked at as the territorial bond so prominent as explored in the 90s favourite.

Speed was still three years away while The Matrix had yet to be conceived, so unless you count his minor participation as goalie in the ice hockey drama Youngblood, Keanu Reeves had yet to do a full-blown action movie. Much maligned for wooden dramatic performances, as former college football star now fresh FBI recruit Johnny Utah, he was perfect as the undercover agent infiltrating an unknown Los Angeles gang of thieves using their crime exploits to fund global surf safaris. It helped that Reeves could draw on his Bill & Ted acting persona to fit in with the wax heads.

Patrick Swayze was the perfect counterpart as zen master surfer Bodey, the bank robber daredevil sharing a brother like spiritual connection with new friend Utah unbeknown that his carefree gang, known as the Ex-Presidents (as they wear American president masks during heists) were under investigation. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) then married to James Cameron who serves as producer.

Originally ‘Riders in the Storm’ retitled Point Break, the low-key July release became an instant critic proof box-office success. Unintentionally hilarious story threads around impressive action sequences, especially an impressive car chase through busy LA streets followed by a foot pursuit ending in a crucial moment when Bodey learns the true identity of Utah. Swayze and Reeves shared a strong chemistry but the vibe of the leads could have been much different if first choices Charlie Sheen and Matthew Broderick were successfully cast. Although the boys used surfing doubles, there was no stopping the late Patrick Swayze from free-falling during the skydiving scenes. Movie insurance monitoring was pushed to the limit.

Manic Gary Busey seemed in his element having also starred in timeless surf film Big Wednesday, Red Hot Chili Pepper fans will be aware of an extended cameo from frontman Anthony Kiedis, while unconventional romantic interest played by husky voiced Lori Petty (last seen in Orange is the New Black) shouldn’t have worked as convincingly as it did. When released Down Under, pundits were quick to note that the finale set during a once in a lifetime swell at Bells Beach, was in fact not filmed on the Victorian coast but on a beach complete with fake rain simulation, in Oregon. Local thespian Peter Phelps featured here quoting the cringeworthy line ‘It’s death on a stick out there mate’.

Time will tell if the stylish update of Point Break has the charm and longevity of the original or simply a mix of Red Bull and GoPro catering for the quick thrill YouTube exploits of extreme sports junkies. Upcoming star, Australia’s own Luke Bracey, takes on the undercover FBI agent role Johnny Utah and Edgar Ramirez brings a god like complex to Bodey, while Teresa Palmer (another talented Aussie, although underused) is a significant presence.

The plot has been tweaked to a Robin Hood like involvement as the thieves conduct corporate heists around the world while keeping enough for themselves, then distributing the excess to less fortunate. Remaking a cult film is always a risk, adjusting the formula another uncertainty, calling it Point Break with so little surfing almost inappropriate.

Directed by astute cinematographer Ericson Core, keeping the stunts ‘mostly’ realistic with minimal digital effects does uphold the entertaining impact on the big screen. Cameos from original ex-presidents James LeGross (Roach) and Bojesse Christopher (Grommet) is a welcome homage. 

Point Break (Rated M – 113 min) opens January 1st.

Shane A. Bassett

Sydney Unleashed is one of Australia’s premier entertainment publications exploring the latest in lifestyle trends. From Sydney’s finest restaurants, cafes and bars to the hottest in gadgets, products, and home entertainment, Sydney Unleashed is your one-stop lifestyle platform.