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Weekend Movie Brawls #4: Point Break (1991) vs. Point Break (2015)

Hello and Happy Friday, everyone, and welcome to Weekend Movie Brawls!

Here, we take an in-depth look at films with similar themes or stories and we pit them against each other in a competition based on their merits. For example, it can be two animated films of the same type, two films which take place during a certain time period, two films with similar plots or an original film versus its remake.

The reason we make this a weekend thing is because when else might you have the time and energy to relax and see something you haven’t seen before?

This week’s match-up is between two pulp-style crime films. While they’re not so much forgotten, I feel they might have been slightly underappreciated.

Let’s meet our competitors…

In this corner…

1) POINT BREAK (1991)

THE PLOT

A team of sophisticated bank robbers called “The Ex-Presidents” (they wear rubber masks with the likenesses of Presidents Reagan, Carter, Nixon, and Johnson during their robberies) are suspected by the FBI to be local surfers. So they send in former All-Conference college football star-turned-FBI Agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves), undercover, because he’s a dude’s dude and he’ll fit right in…and I wish I could tell that I just made that last sentence up to fuck with you. Unfortunately, he ends up building an unexpected friendship with Bodhi (Patrick Swayze), the leader of the gang — and nearly gets in too deep with Brody’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, Tyler (Lori Petty), in the process. Directed by Oscar winning director (for “The Hurt Locker”) Kathryn Bigelow.

And, in this corner…

2) POINT BREAK (2015)

THE PLOT

Luke Bracey is “Utah”! That’s it. Just “Utah”. He’s a former extreme sports nut who joined the FBI after one of his extreme bike stunts went awry and killed a colleague. So, of course, the FBI tasks him to follow a bunch of extreme sports nuts who they suspect are robbing everyone all over the world using various extreme stunts like shoving whole crates of cash off a random plane and then parachuting after it like we’re in a 1991 Mountain Dew ad. This one’s helmed by Ericson Core whose only other film directing credit was Disney’s sports film, “Invincible”.

SCORING

The scoring in Weekend Movie Brawls is simple. There are five categories: music, casting, writing, production (which includes design, costumes, make-up, etc), and direction. Each of these will be awarded a letter grade, from A to F. As in school, each of these letter grades has a number associated to it. An “A” is worth 4 points, “B” is 3 points, “C” is 2 points, “D” is 1 point and “F” is worth nothing. At the end, the final score will be average total of each of the 5 categories. For instance, if the score at the end of a round is “20”, this will be divided by five, the number of categories, for a final score of “4”.

The final scoring will not be revealed until the end of the contest.

In the event of a tie at the end of a brawl, the winner will be decided via a playoff round at a later date.

And, as always, THERE MIGHT BE SPOILERS, so if you haven’t seen these films, get out of here while you still can.

If you’re still game for this, read on!

MUSIC

POINT BREAK (1991)

Mark Isham is one of those “under the radar” composers. With nearly 200 composer credits to his name and almost 50 years of experience, the dude is a workhorse. He has some decent cuts in “Point Break” (when the early 90’s alternative rock soundtrack isn’t busting your eardrums) but the score is largely your typical action score. The nice thing is that Isham alternates between big, blaring brass and heavy drums to electronic, soulful stuff which works because surfing and skydiving are, by nature, both as nerve-wracking and intense as they are beautiful and relaxing to watch.

POINT BREAK (2015)

Tom Holkenborg (AKA “Junkie XL”, pictured above) is the composer of choice for the remake…and he does about the same job as Isham does. Junkie was responsible for the scores for “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”. I mention those because they’re prime examples of Junkie ranging from absolute legend to “WTF mate”. Here, he lands somewhere right in the middle, I guess, ditching any idea of a soul and adding in dudes hitting giant drums on nearly every single track. Even an FBI briefing gets heavy drums like Junkie’s providing hype music for two sumo wrestlers who are about to crash into one another. It’s big, brash and not memorable. Isham is the winner here by a nose.

CASTING

POINT BREAK (1991)

Let’s get this out of the way now: Keanu Reeves (pictured above, left) is in this movie. It’s 2019 and the dude has become the new Betty White due to legendary (and largely uncorroborated) stories of his heroism and penchant for being a really nice guy…er, dude. He’s totally miscast in this, just like he was in roughly a little more than half of what he’s starred in. Do I sound like I’m slamming the dude? I am NOT slamming the dude. He’s great here as Johnny because he fits the character type…and, yet, he’s still delightfully miscast, too. That’s The Ballad of Keanu Reeves. The late Patrick Swayze (ugh, I hate typing that; he feels like he should still be alive) plays Bodhi, the leader of “The Ex-Presidents” and I’m of the opinion that this was his best role. In fact, I bought him as Bodhi more than I bought Reeves as Utah. Swayze’s always been cast as the rebel (eg: “Dirty Dancing”, “Road House”, etc.) so his wild-man/good ol’ boy dichotomy works well with his soulful thrill-seeker character. Lori Petty (pictured above, right) is great as Tyler, Bodhi’s kinda-love interest. She’s a tough-as-nails beach chick which works two ways: she doesn’t take any shit from the beach bums around her or from Bodhi. Rounding out the cast is pre-insane Gary Busey who plays Pappas, Reeves’ partner.

POINT BREAK (2015)

I’m gonna preface this by saying that I LOVE this cast and I LOVE what the filmmakers were going for. Edgar Ramirez plays Bodhi here and Luke Bracey is Utah. Both guys look like they could really do what their film counterparts do before the film CGI’s it all for us. They’re gritty. They’re seasoned. They don’t look or feel like actors — and this is to the film’s ultimate detriment. The pair remind me of Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx in 2006’s “Miami Vice”: they both have the look but they mumble or flatly recite their lines which just kills any chemistry the filmmakers were hoping for. Teresa Palmer plays “Samsara” who is, more or less, the “Tyler” character from the original film. Palmer’s just ok, mainly because the film doesn’t include her most of the time which renders the later plot twist involving her character’s death both unnecessary and ineffectual. Ray Winstone plays Pappas here and…what a waste. Winstone is clearly here to collect a paycheck, playing Pappas like a cranky old man who objects to Utah’s every move, no matter what it is.

WRITING

HOLLYWOOD, CA – DECEMBER 15: Writer/producer Kurt Wimmer and guest attend the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures’ ‘Point Break’ at TCL Chinese Theatre on December 15, 2015 in Hollywood, California.(Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)

POINT BREAK (1991)

W. Peter Iliff wrote this movie. He also wrote “Varsity Blues” and “Patriot Games”…and that’s really the only three major writing credits on his watch. I don’t understand that. The script for “Point Break” isn’t perfection by any means, but it’s beautifully paced at the very least and, at times, gets Shane Black-ish with the buddy pair formula (turned on its head, somewhat) and the insane action sequences which plain wear you out. The story and concept is very clever and Bodhi’s gang will go down in history as one of the greatest movie bank robber gangs in all of cinema. And I love the idea that Utah came so close to the edge, that he ends up ditching his badge simply because there won’t be another case more thrilling than chasing down Bodhi. I also love the pairing of Utah and Tyler and how that plays into the relationship with Bodhi and Utah.

POINT BREAK (2015)

I wish I could say the same of Kurt Wimmer’s script for the remake. Wimmer (pictured above) doesn’t so much write a script as he’s written a list of stunts for his audience to check off once they happen. In his version, we get lines about “respect for nature” and a gang who is anti-corruption and wants to give back to the poor people who are getting ripped off but this is really more of an idea than what actually happens. Also (I mentioned this in “Casting”), there’s no real chemistry between anyone. Bodhi and Utah have a slight mistrust of one another but never do you really buy their “bond”. And Samsara is so vapid that her untimely death doesn’t properly resonate simply because she and Utah went swimming for about three minutes, slept together…and that’s it, folks. You don’t see her again until she’s literally gunned down by Utah. And that’s the difference between the two films in a nutshell: you care about the characters in the original film, but not here.

PRODUCTION

POINT BREAK (1991)

It’s a big production by 20th Century Fox with gorgeous shots of Southern California locales which presents us with multiple trips to the beach, and several sequences involving surfing, sky-diving, and breathless chase scenes, courtesy of Donald Peterman, who did exquisite work on “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”, “Flashdance”, and “She’s Having a Baby”. The footage used in the film is authentic and real and isn’t the victim of the CGI machine that the 2015 version was passed through. Additionally, as noted, the film is nicely cast with actors who understand who they’re playing and live it up, as silly as it all might sound to them. It has a fairly tight action script and the film feels like an epic worthy of the big screen.

POINT BREAK (2015)

The remake’s saving grace is the cinematography. It’s the best part of the film. The surfing, skydiving and base-jumping sequences are all beautifully shot. The colors really pop and you feel like you’re there. Director Ericson Core is both director and cinematographer here and he was also responsible for the Mel Gibson film, “Payback”, so try to picture that gritty look applied to the outdoor scenes and you have a good idea of what everything looks like. Everything else about the film? Sigh…I really wish it was better. It’s like watching the original film if a rough draft of the story outline was used instead of an actual script and the result is like watching a 2-hour block on the Atmosphere app.

DIRECTION

POINT BREAK (1991)

Kathryn Bigelow would go on to direct better films but that isn’t to say that Point Break is one of her career B-sides. Point Break is one of my favorite action pictures of all-time. It’s up there with “Near Dark” and “Strange Days”. Just like those two, it’s a touch over-the-top in its ambition but Bigelow controls everything beautifully and delivers a breathless action film that never lets up once it gets going.

POINT BREAK (2015)

Ericson Core makes the film look good — but that’s about it. His lack of film direction experience shows as a lot of potential is squandered what with the original source material and a sexy cast at his fingertips. Everyone seems to be going through the motions. Even the extreme sports scenes feel arbitrary. The action scenes are robotic and lack suspense partly because of some roughshod editing and poor CGI and green-screening techniques but also because it’s impossible to care about anyone.

THE WINNER

SCORING:

POINT BREAK (1991)

Music: C (2 points)
Cast: B+ (3 points)
Writing: B- (3 point)
Production: B (3 points)
Direction: B+ (3 points)

POINT BREAK (2015)

Music: D (1 point)
Cast: C+ (2 points)
Writing: D- (1 point)
Production: C+ (2 points)
Direction: D+ (1 point)

FINAL SCORING:

POINT BREAK (1991): 14 points (2.8 Average)
POINT BREAK (2015): 7 points (1.4 Average)

POST-GAME THOUGHTS

I don’t think this was any real surprise to anyone. All films have the burden of proving their worth at the movies. Remakes of films have double duty in that there are fans and viewers of the original film and they’re already skeptical. 2015’s “Point Break” was an unfortunate mess, despite Core being a seemingly talented director. With excellent direction, beautiful and authentic photography, a tight script, memorable characters, and a cast anchored by an uber-charismatic Patrick Swayze and unshakable Keanu Reeves, 1991’s, “Point Break” is far superior to the 2015 version.

NEXT WEEK: We have some leftover fireworks we still have to set off…so what better way to do that than to pit some alien warriors against one another…in a FOUR-WAY FIGHT TO THE DEATH!!! It’s “Predator” vs. “Predator 2” vs. “Predators” vs. “The Predator”! Join us next week for this big throwdown!

About Matt Perri

Matt Perri
Matt Perri is one of those literary Ronin you’ve never heard of until he shows up and tells you he’s a literary Ronin. He’s a native Californian, a film buff, old school gamer geek, and a sports/entertainment fan. A lifelong Giants, 49ers and Sharks fan, he also covers the world of pro-wrestling, writing recaps for WWE Monday Night RAW and Total Divas at Scott’s Blog of Doom. You can follow the guy on Twitter via @PerriTheSmark as well as here at The Workprint and his own blog, We Hate Your Gimmick.

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