Did you know that Johnny Utah isn’t really named “Johnny Utah” in the new Point Break movie? It’s true.
“‘Utah’ was just a nickname they gave me,” new Utah says, staring pensively out at the Alps skyline from the top of a cliff he’s about to wingsuit off of. “My mother was a Ute Indian. It means ‘mountain people.’ …Maybe that’s why I was so good on the slopes.”
What if… Johnny Utah was never really named Johnny Utah? Whoooaaaa…
Of all the things from the original Point Break that could’ve been elaborated or expanded upon (still waiting for that War Child spin-off starring Anthony Kiedis), the derivation of “Utah” was the last I expected. I don’t know if the filmmakers expected us to be thinking, “Oh good, now I know why he’s named ‘Utah,’ it’s because of his Native American snowboard genes,” but it doesn’t really matter.
What matters is how fun it is to watch, and if you can hear a line like “that’s why I was so good on the slopes” without laughing, I don’t know what to tell you.
I suppose I should start earlier. In the original, Keanu Reeves’ Johnny Utah was an ex-football player, a former quarterback for the Ohio State Buckeyes, who were on their way to beating the favored Trojans in the Rose Bowl when Utah blew out his knee. More materially, he was a kook, a novice surfer, an outsider in the world of extreme sports when he infiltrated Bodhi’s gang of zen surf-dog bank robbers. This time around, Johnny Utah, played by squinty Australian cheekbone stud Luke Bracey, is an ex-motocross riding, skydiving, snowboarding “extreme sport polyathlete.” (Yes, they use that term). He joined the FBI after he got a buddy killed during a motocross ride, swore off the XXXtreme lifestyle, and went to law school. Seven years later, he’s shredding for the government.
By the way, one of the best things about the new Point Break is how it lumps all extreme sports into one big shredtathlon, where anyone who does one naturally does the others. Motocross? Duh. Surfing? Of course. Snowboarding? Most def. BASE jumping? Obviously. Wingsuiting? Yes indeedy. Mountain climbing? Doy. At one point, Utah, in one of his many sexy open-collared flannels, travels to an abandoned train station in Paris, where Bodhi, now played by a sentient tendril of hair named Edgar Ramirez, and his gang of beardy side-shaves are holding underground MMA fights. Because what else would extreme sport athletes do at night but cage fight in a bare lightbulb showroom? Incidentally, it’s a great excuse for everyone to de-shirt and show off their awesome tats.
But I’m getting ahead of myself again. This time around, since Utah is an expert at virtually any sport an energy drink might sponsor, he’s not a fish-out-of-water in the world of shredding the gnar like Keanu-Utah was. He’s a fish very much in water. Or snow. Or sand. Come to think of it, he’s basically XXX without the one liners.
One of the Bodhi gang’s first scores is a cargo plane, which is flying over Mexico carrying some giant pallets of $100 bills, as cargo planes do. The gang opens the hatch, cuts the pallets loose, and jumps out of the plane with them. Then they cut the money loose, so that the bills flutter out, raining down on a poor Mexican village, while the gang free falls straight into the Cave of Swallows before pulling their ‘chutes. A skydive-to-BASE-jump combo score. In Utah’s “Mr. Monster Energy Goes To Washington” speech in front of the FBI dudes, he speculates that the gang is trying to complete the “Ozaki Eight,” a mythical test of gnarliness that no one has yet been gnarly enough to complete. Ozaki himself died on number three. Pour out a Red Bull for Ozaki, whoever he may be.
Not quite convinced of his theory, the FBI nonetheless sends Utah out to meet his new partner, Angelo Pappas, who is Ray Winstone instead of Gary Busey in this one. Utah’s boss warns him that this Pappas is a bit of a character, which turns out to be vestigial foreshadowing because Pappas is completely useless now. Basically all he does is drive Utah out to the middle of the ocean where a freak storm is causing a once-in-a-lifetime surf break (which looks remarkably like Teahupoo). It’s there Utah finds Bodhi’s gang, who, in between surf sets, are partying on a bikini DJ yacht that has a skateboard ramp build into it. Dudes are literally skateboarding down the roof of the yacht off a ramp into the ocean, during 80-foot swells. My God, this is the Baseketball of extreme sports movies. It is glorious.
Naturally, it’s there where Utah meets his Lori Petty, played by Teresa Palmer, whose breasts seem to have swelled to anime proportions. Maybe that’s a side effect of the extreme lifestyle? Anyway, Utah greets her with, “I saw you on that wave today. It was epic.”
Turns out her name is “Samsara,” and she was adopted by Ozaki when a Norwegian whaler ran over her parents’ protest boat. She takes Johnny for a run along the ocean floor while they hold heavy rocks. If you’ve heard of a “meet-cute,” this is more of a meet-siiiick. I really wish it would have ended with a shaka-shaped star wipe.
The odd thing about this remake is that, in the original, Bodhi’s gang were dangerous bank robbers who killed people and eventually kidnapped Utah’s special lady. In this version, they’re kind of just merry pranksters. Their stunts are all vaguely political acts of extreme vandalism that don’t benefit them monetarily or hurt anyone (assuming no Mexicans got brained by the falling cash pallets). Are we really supposed to root for Utah to take down this gang of sick bro Robin Hoods the name of corporate profit? Because frankly, giving up this FBI thing and becoming part of Bodhi’s gang of international X-dudes seems like the way to go. Did I mention the skateboard bikini yacht?
Of course, the protagonist’s convoluted motivations have little effect on the entertainment value of Ericson Core’s version of Point Break, which is a glorious mix of awesome, pointless stunts set at extreme sports landmarks (Victoria Falls, Teahupoo, that Swiss valley where they wingsuit, etc) and unintentionally hilarious dialogue. Some gems include:
BODHI: “Easy, Roach. Don’t you recognize our visitor?”
UTAH: “Roach Rollinger? You’re a moto legend.”
SAMSARA: “What’s the matter, Johnny?”
UTAH: “I dunno. I guess I’m just thinkin’ about losing Chowder.”
(Chowder was a member of the gang who died during a too-gnarly snowboard ride, by the way.)
Look, I’m not here to tell you this movie makes sense. It makes almost no sense. And there is no logical reason that it should be a remake and not just a sequel. The moment when Johnny Utah fires his gun up in the air and goes “AAARRRGHHH” loses all its power because Utah already passed up at least 10 chances to kill Bodhi by that point. Not that he would even want to, since all Bodhi has done is take him on awesome adventures and get him laid. But a movie like this doesn’t have to make sense to be enjoyable. In fact, it’s sort of a hindrance. All it needs is a cool buzz, some tasty waves, and maybe a skateboard ramp made out of a yacht filled with models and a Eurotrash DJ filmed like a music video.
Grade: Probably Too XXXTreme For You
Vince Mancini is a writer and comedian living in San Francisco. A graduate of Columbia’s non-fiction MFA program, his work has appeared on FilmDrunk, the UPROXX network, the Portland Mercury, the East Bay Express, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.