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Ecoterrorism replaces star power in action-heavy 'Point Break'
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Luke Bracey is Johnny Utah in "Point Break." - photo by Josh Terry
"POINT BREAK" 2 stars Luke Bracey, Edgar Ramirez, Teresa Palmer; PG-13 (violence, thematic material involving perilous activity, some sexuality, language and drug material); in general release

Midway through Point Break, a peripheral and inconsequential character dies. Later that day, his friends gather at an exquisite mountain villa around a 15-foot log funeral pyre and light it in his honor. Their faces, lit by the flickering fire, are solemn and ponderous.

One jump cut later, 200 partygoers cavort to house music around the same pyre, still ablaze, depicting perhaps the third or fourth such party scene in the movie. In the bizarre universe of director Ericson Cores Point Break, even death must take a backseat to the party.

Point Break a remake of a 1991 action thriller starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves is a mighty tug of war. On one end, you have a series of incredible action sequences depicting mind-blowing acts of extreme sports performance in exotic locations.

On the other end is an absurd story built on an even more absurd pseudophilosophy, dancing around a 15-foot bonfire that consumes all logic and good sense.

Luke Bracey takes over the old Reeves role as Johnny Utah, an aspiring FBI agent and ex-motocross superstar who goes undercover with a group of extreme sports fanatics suspected of criminal activity. Utah suspects that the group led by a thrill-seeker named Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez in the Swayze role) is trying to achieve something called the Ozaki 8: a series of death-defying feats of athleticism meant to pay homage to Mother Earth.

Essentially, the group is a bunch of ecoterrorist Robin Hoods who equate base jumping with fighting climate change. Each feat must be matched by an offering to the Earth, which is how this bro culture brand of spirituality allows them to justify theft, wanton destruction of property and firing automatic weapons at any human beings who get in their way.

Its a contemporary update on the original film, and theres also a girl (Teresa Palmer), some moral conflict for Utah and plenty of bad tattoos. But the plot is little more than a thin excuse to tie together some incredible action sequences, each more impressive than the last.

Utah meets Bodhi as they are surfing massive swells in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and after proving his intentions at an underground Fight Club in Paris, he joins the crew as they don glider suits to rocket through mountain canyons in Europe. Its all good until Bodhi decides to give back to the Earth by blowing up a gold mine, and Utah has to decide how far to take his cover.

Back when the Fast & Furious franchise got started, people said its plot was ripped off from the original Point Break, and now the cycle has come full circle. The Fast & Furious movies have become infamous for their popular blend of absurd, over-the-top stunts with the curious appeal of their ensemble cast. But that blend works because you get the sense that everyone on either side of the camera is having a good time.

Point Break takes itself far too seriously to be bothered by anything like fun, even when its characters whoop in exhilaration at the parties that punctuate all the action sequences. In spite of the amazing visuals and editing, the film still keeps you at arms length. The whole thing feels more like an extreme sports highlight reel than a movie, and youll probably leave a lot more satisfied if you treat it that way.

As talented as they may be physically, Bracey and Ramirez are no onscreen match for Reeves and Swayze, and the plot and dialogue arent helping (one specific nod to the original film comes off as especially silly). The best advice for any viewer might be to bring a set of headphones into the theater, crank up your favorite gym mix and just enjoy the spectacle.

Point Break is rated PG-13 for violence, thematic material involving perilous activity, some sexuality, language and drug material; running time: 113 minutes.