By Kurt Jensen
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — "Point Break" (Warner Bros.), director Ericson Core’s remake of the 1991 crime adventure, comes to 3-D life whenever someone in the cast is skydiving, surfing massive waves, zooming through the Alps in a wingsuit or clinging to the sheer face of a Venezuelan mountain.
But that’s all there is. Anytime a character pauses to announce, or merely grunt, one of the pearls of eco-warrior wisdom with which the dialogue is decked out, the story stalls, crashes and burns.
Despite being excessively violent, the first film, about surfing bank robbers, helped build the careers of helmer Kathryn Bigelow and stars Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. This one, with Luke Bracey taking on Reeves’ role of rookie FBI agent Johnny Utah — now an extreme athlete who excels in all forms of dangerous endeavor — is unlikely to bolster the resume of anyone involved.
Even the reuse of the title, a phrase specific to the world of surfers, seems unjustified. It’s given a purely figurative meaning as the point at which fear takes over someone’s life. "It becomes master, and you become its slave," intones daredevil Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez), the leader of the gang Johnny has been assigned to infiltrate.
It’s also the point at which the audience’s attention wanders off after hearing a surfeit of stale bumper-sticker tropes from Bodhi and his intrepid followers.
These enlightened dudes steal money for the noblest of reasons: to disrupt exploitative diamond and gold mining. In the best Robin Hood manner, they also try to remedy economic inequality. Thus they time their raid on an airborne cash transfer so that hundred-dollar bills will rain down on an impoverished Mexican village.
Such altruism melds uncomfortably with the few Ayn Randian lines screenwriter Kurt Wimmer has tossed into the mix. One instance of such sentiments: "We are only responsible for our own path, and let others have theirs."
More explicit than their debt to Rand is the bandits’ allegiance to an Asian mystic who, it seems, laid out eight feats of team-building courage involving air, water, and sky. If Johnny can predict these tests, he explains to his boss, Hall (Delroy Lindo), the FBI can find the bad guys.
Once Johnny goes undercover, though, he finds himself taken with his adversaries, especially curvaceous Samsara (Teresa Palmer).
The rampant mayhem of the original has been curbed, and the visual thrills to be derived from this iteration are obvious. But viewers will search in vain for any consistent morality below the slick surface or for much that lingers in the memory.
The film contains gun and physical violence, a brief scene of implied sexual activity, drug use and fleeting crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
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Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.