Point Break (2015)

For F*** Magazine

POINT BREAK

Director : Ericson Core
Cast : Édgar Ramírez, Luke Bracey, Ray Winstone, Teresa Palmer, Delroy Lindo
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 114 mins
Opens : 3 December 2015
Rating : NC-16 (Sexual Scene and Some Violence)

Strap in, buckle up, insert alternate ways of securing oneself here – because things are about to get XTREME! *Guitar riff*. Johnny Utah (Bracey) is an FBI agent-in-training and a former motocross rider who left the sport after a tragic accident in his youth. When a team of elite thrill-seekers pulls off multiple heists around the world, targeting wealthy corporations, Utah proposes to his FBI instructor (Lindo) that he be allowed to investigate. Utah goes undercover, infiltrating the team and befriending its leader Bodhi (Ramírez), who explains that the daredevil exploits are actually about honouring nature. Utah falls in love with one of the team’s members, Samsara (Palmer), and British agent Angelo Pappas (Winstone) begins to doubt where Utah’s loyalties lie. As Bodhi’s gang pursues the ultimate rush, Utah is seduced back into the extreme sports world, but must put a stop to Bodhi’s criminal activities before he reaches the point of no return.
            Point Break is a remake of the 1991 film of the same name, which some would go so far as to call a classic. The original Point Break is by no means flawless and certainly has its goofy moments, but its iconic status is well-deserved and the characters of Johnny Utah and Bodhi, as portrayed by Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze respectively, are certainly memorable. There’s no use beating around the bush: a Point Break remake is unnecessary, and doubly so because we already have The Fast and the Furious, which swapped out surfing for underground street racing. It is a touch ironic that Ericson Core, the cinematographer of the first Fast and Furious movie, is the director and cinematographer of the Point Break remake. It can be argued that if the characters had different names and this movie were called something other than Point Break, there would actually be less furore at it being a rip-off than there is now, given its “official” status.
            The original film revolved around surf culture and the remake ups the ante by throwing everything and the kitchen sink into it, showcasing feats of big-wave surfing, wingsuit flying, free rock climbing, dirt road motorcycling and sheer face snowboarding. The film has roped in top real-life extreme sports athletes to perform the stunts and granted, they do look impressive, but there is something very dated about this approach. It makes the film feel like a relic of the late 90s, when things like the X Games were taking off and everything felt like a Mountain Dew commercial. The daredevil stunts are strung together with a plot device in which Bodhi is looking to complete the “Ozaki 8”, a series of extreme sports trials. The film has a larger scope than the original, with filming taking place in Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, Mexico, Venezuela, French Polynesia and India, but there are times when it feels more like a ginned up Amazing Race than anything else.
            It is interesting that audiences feel so protective over the characters of Johnny Utah and Bodhi given that they’ve only been in one film, but it seems like it’s sacrilege for any actors other than Reeves and Swayze to take on those roles. Gerard Butler was originally cast as Bodhi but was replaced by Ramírez. While Ramírez brings some mystique to the role and tries his best to pull off the philosopher-warrior attitude embodied by Swayze, his interpretation of the character is far from sufficiently magnetic. Reeves isn’t exactly an untouchable paradigm of acting talent and from some angles, Bracey does sort of resemble Reeves. He does bring a heaping helping of whininess to the part. Similarly, Palmer is considerably more boring than Lori Petty was in the original. Gary Busey brought his trademark unhinged unpredictability to Pappas, while Winstone is the usual gruff English street tough he always is. Lindo is the stock authority figure, also doing very little. As a side note, the film features some of the least convincing tattoos we’ve ever seen in a movie. Guess the stunt budget left the makeup department high and dry.
            It’s pretty obvious that the plot exists to string the stunts together, and it all comes across as very perfunctory and half-hearted. This is a movie that should naturally be flowing with adrenaline, but it often feels like it’s just being shoved along. A Point Break remake was a terrible idea to begin with, and even with all the extreme sports bells and whistles in the world, there’s no way this was going to be anything but a let-down. In the hands of screenwriter Kurt Wimmer, it’s even more laughable than in the original film when Bodhi waxes faux-philosophical. Sure, the original Point Break was cheesy, but that was part of its charm. In place of that, we get a whole lot of going through the motions, the end result mediocre rather than radical.
Summary: This remake boasts superbly executed stunts but is fully incapable of justifying its existence and, for a movie about extreme sports, is sorely lacking in energy. It’s pretty blah, brah.
RATING: 2out of 5 Stars
Jedd Jong

The Gunman

For F*** Magazine

THE GUNMAN

Director : Pierre Morel
Cast : Sean Penn, Jasmine Trinca, Javier Bardem, Idris Elba, Peter Franzén, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 105 mins
Opens : 9 April 2015
Rating : NC-16 (Violence and Scene of Intimacy)
Middle-aged, grimacing, gun-toting heroes seem to be in vogue. Sean Penn probably looked at Liam Neeson’s recent output and went “hey, I can do that.” In this action thriller, Penn plays Jim Terrier, a former private military contractor hired by a mining corporation to assassinate the minister of mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo circa 2006. Also a part of the team were Felix (Bardem) and Cox (Rylance). Eight years later, Terrier believes he has escaped his former life, working for a non-government organization in the Congo, when his past comes calling, reopening old wounds. With the help of his old friend Stan (Winstone), Terrier tracks down his former partners to get to the bottom of things, trekking from the Congo to London to Barcelona to Gibraltar. In the meantime, he has caught the attention of Interpol agent Barnes (Elba). Caught in the crossfire is Annie (Trinca), Terrier’s ex-girlfriend whom he has never quite managed to forget.

            From beginning to end, The Gunman just feels like a wholly cynical exercise. First, there’s the matter of its name – the film is based on Jean-Patrick Manchette’s novel The Prone Gunman and that is a cooler, more distinctive title. We know we’re not supposed to let our personal attitudes towards actors’ off-screen personas colour our critique but here, it’s impossible not to think the only reason Sean Penn did this is because he smugly thought it was just that easy. This is Penn’s first action movie, and we can just picture him looking at Taken and saying “pfft, I can do that in my sleep”. He’s even hired the director of the first Taken film, Pierre Morel, to helm this project. Penn sports bulging biceps and looks to be in fighting fit shape, but somehow, he can’t quite pull it off, his physique coming off more like an ill-fitting suit than anything else. It appears that this particular archetype is a mite trickier to convincingly execute than Penn first thought – even for an Oscar-winner like himself.

            There is nothing special to the action here at all. With the bog-standard shootouts, fisticuffs and explosions, it’s a snooze for anyone who’s seen more than a couple of action flicks in their lifetime. The climactic confrontation takes place in a bull-fighting ring, which seems like a great setting for a unique set-piece, but the finale is still quite anticlimactic. It’s also difficult to take this self-styled gritty, contemplative action movie seriously thanks to the half-baked, sometimes hilarious dialogue. The screenplay, credited to Don MacPherson, Pete Travis and Penn himself, contains some jaw-dropping clunkers. For example, Idris Elba, who can usually make anything sound awesome, is given an unwieldy speech which begins with the line “ever have one of those days where every law is Murphy’s Law?” This then segues into an incredibly clumsy treehouse analogy, and ends with Elba quipping “get my drift, cowboy?”

            Likely thanks to its status as a vanity project, what looks on the surface like a top-shelf supporting cast plays second fiddle to Penn – big time. Elba gets the shortest shrift, his talents woefully underused here. Javier Bardem also isn’t in this for as much as the trailers imply, squeezing in a hammy performance before his time onscreen is up. Ray Winstone plays the same character he always does – the street-smart, wizened Brit tough guy, except here he’s “trustworthy ally” rather than “scary gangster’. Penn had apparently wanted to work with Mark Rylance so much he moved the shooting schedule around to accommodate him. The acclaimed stage and screen actor, who’ll next be seen in Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, does have fun with the limited material he’s given to work with. Jasmine Trinca’s Annie is a female lead of the most stereotypical sort – she works for an NGO, as antihero mercenaries’ girlfriends often do, and knows nothing about her ex-boyfriends dangerous past, needing to be rescued at every turn.

            The Gunman is neither entertainingly explosive enough to pass as escapist spectacle nor is it sufficiently cerebral and intense to be a dramatic action thriller. Our lead character could’ve been played by anyone really, but ironically enough, Penn with all his plaudits just can’t carry this action movie.

Summary: Sean Penn makes for an awkward action hero and the film wastes its supporting cast, The Gunman shooting mostly blanks.

RATING: 2 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong