Monday, March 14, 2016

I Watched Both Point Breaks, So You Don’t Have To

 Decades before she won an Oscar for The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow directed a cowboy vampire movie you may have heard of, Near Dark (1987) and four years later, Point Break (1991).  It was essentially a surf movie updated for the 90’s with action elements and an undercover FBI sub-plot starring Keanu Reeves as Johnny Utah, an ex-college football hero infiltrating a gang of surfing bank robbers.  Add Patrick Swayze as Bodhi, the zen-cool surfing bank robber, a non-crazy Gary Busey and Lori Petty from Tank Girl (1995) and Orange is the New Black in one of her first screen roles and you have the makings of a pre-grunge, pre-internet 90’s classic.
Keanu was still trying to get out from under the shadow of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), a character he wouldn’t fully eclipse until he redefined himself as an action star in Speed (1994), but Point Break was the turning point that set him on that path. 
The surf movie genre never really left the optimism of the 60’s, and Point Break at its heart is about a love of the ocean and the surfing lifestyle.  There’s a genuine passion depicted in the surf montages and the quiet, meditative aspect of the sport is explored, in between the shootouts and car chases, of course.
Point Break is a surfing term specific type of wave, but in the Point Break remake (2015), it is now defined as your personal breaking point, that edge you need to reach before you really know who you are and what defines you.  If that sounds like something Vin Diesel might have said in The Fast and The Furious (2001) you’re not far off, as Warner Brothers attempts to apply the same formula they learned from street racing to the surfing world.
The remake is no longer a surf movie, and now focuses on extreme athletes traveling to exotic locales to rob the 1% and redistribute the wealth while diving off cliffs.  There are still the scenes of big wave surfing with Laird Hamilton cameos, along with base jumps, rock climbing and snowboarding that were actually accomplished with real athletes, but in an age of CGI and green screens these stunts are rendered impotent and meaningless.  And just because a filmmaker brags in the press releases that the stunts are real, doesn’t make them real.  These people are in the business of telling stories and lying is just another way of creating a fiction.
Bodhi is now played by Edgar Ramirez as the leader of a group of international tattooed hardbody Robin Hoods flipping off security cameras and advocating a more extreme version of Occupy Wall Street, in between cruises on multi-million dollar yachts and base-jumping off the Swiss Alps.  He presents an easy life of endless parties funded by robbing the rich and turning his back on corporate sponsors, the new American dream for disenfranchised millennials.
Instead of an attainable sense of enlightenment gained through the simple process of learning how to surf the viewer is distracted by the fictional and hare-brained “Osaki 8”, a series of extreme events for what the movie calls “extreme poly-athletes” to complete, each more ridiculous than the other, as if auditioning for a 90’s Mountain Dew commercial, or more likely, playing a videogame.  It’s an overcomplicated premise designed to lend some vaguely defined philosophical legitimacy to the next overblown stunt to dazzle and impress you.

It’s a sad state of affairs when I can write the words “it’s no Fast and Furious” and you will know exactly what I mean.  Edgar Ramirez has none of the brutish charm of Vin Diesel, and Luke Bracey, who plays Johnny Utah 2.0 is no Paul Walker.  But the movie has far more in common with that franchise than the original Point Break, a comparably quiet little movie about chasing the perfect wave, while robbing a couple banks.


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.