This Christmas Day, a remake of Point Break will hit theaters, and word on the street is… it’s not that great. But since so many fans have such fond memories of the 1991 cult favorite, I thought this might be the perfect opportunity to kick off our first installment of a new series called Reboot Camp!
Here, we look at what gave Point Break its beloved status, and also consider how the new version could possibly measure up in a side-by-side comparison. So let’s get started with…
Almost everyone in the 1991 Point Break is completely nuts, leaving former quarterback and current FBI agent Johnny Utah to be the serious business of this wacky film. He’s a rookie trying to prove himself by going undercover to bust a gang of surfers-cum-bank robbers. But it’s particularly magical that the “serious” guy is played by the slightly spacey Keanu Reeves, who delivers all the slightly-terrible Johnny Utah lines with just the right surfer affect to make them almost seem profound. While Australian Luke Bracey seems to own the reformed extreme athlete part pretty well, it looks like he puts way too much seriousness into the role. Where’s the fun in that? I declare 1991 the winner of this round.
The ying to Johnny Utah’s yang, Bodhi is the leader of the criminal pack. He’s a little bit genius and a lotta bit psycho thrill-seeking spiritualist. The new Bodhi (played by Édgar Ramírez) is a brooding mastermind hellbent on eco-terrorism via disrupting world financial markets. I want to side with new Bodhi’s cause, but the incredible magnetism of Patrick Swayze’s 1991 madman is just way too much fun to resist. Swayze gave Bodhi cool swagger one minute and kid-like exuberance the next. He brings the right level of humor, crazy and deadliness to the role. Score another one for 1991.
We’re not sure if the criminal gang in the new Point Break has a name, but the 1991 crew was called “The Ex-Presidents,” due to the rubber president masks they wore as they robbed banks. While the 2015 trailers don’t tell much about the new gang, their Robin Hood-esque mission feels way more complicated than the 1991 bunch, who were basically in it for Bodhi, the money, and the madness. When not pulling off heists, they sky-dived, surfed, and drank together on the beach. They also had the rock-and-roll crossover thing going with Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the squad. But what the new guys appear to have going for them are the thrills. Those new action sequences may put the old surfing scenes to shame. Plus, they do don presidential-face helmets, which appear to include Putin. Now if only one of them had Nixon’s face and shouted, “I am not a crook!”
Every pretty boy like Johnny Utah needs a gritty veteran to counter his shine; and Pappas is that grit in Point Break. The 1991 Pappas was played by the inimitable Gary Busey, barking orders and trying to teach young Utah the ropes. The 2015 version is played by hard-nosed Ray Winstone, who definitely brings a lot more earnestness to Pappas. To me, this contest is the least fair — nobody beats Gary Busey. His loud, abrasive, wacky and often hilarious Pappas is one of the most enjoyable parts of the original Point Break.
So in my last category, I’m afraid 2015 doesn’t stand. Ericson Core can probably brag over some amazing extreme-sports filmmaking thanks to his cinematography experience on action movies, but the 1991 Point Break was directed by the legendary Kathryn Bigelow. This is the first woman in history to win the Oscar for Best Director. Her work made what could have been a purely lightweight flick into a beautifully-shot, well-paced film. I think we’ve gotta drop the mic right there.
And 1991 wins with a clean sweep! Clearly the cult hit is our favorite. But that’s not to say we can’t have both. In the words of Busey’s Pappas: