BRECKENRIDGE | Johnny Utah will do almost anything to catch a criminal.
Aficionados of the campy 1990s surfboard cult classic “Point Break” already know that.
But the ends to which America’s most extreme FBI agent takes his daredeviling nearly 25 years after Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze partnered in the original is what makes this generation’s version of “Point Break” something more than a by-the-book reboot.
Snowboarding, freeclimbing, wingsuit flying, motocross — the new movie features pretty much every kind of death-defying sport you can think of and employs the best in the world at each endeavor to shoot the scenes.
No need to worry, purists: There’s surfing, too, along with plenty of Keanu-like cheese to choose from — Johnny: “Ideas can be powerful.” Johnny’s love interest, Samsara: “Not as powerful as a whaling ship.” Deep thoughts.
But if anything about this remake lingers 25 years hence, it probably won’t be the lines. Rather, it will be the risk and expense the directors and athletes incurred to portray extreme sports in the most realistic light possible.
“I’ve seen a Hollywood snowboard movie where they’re showing the same, quote-unquote, trick, but it’s two different rotations,” said Louie Vito, the Olympic snowboarder who has a cameo in the movie. “It’s a lot of little things like that that we notice that can make a movie a lot more corny. But this, having the guys they had do the stunts and the riding, it stays way more true to it.”
From Xavier De Le Rue in snowboarding to Chris Sharma in freeclimbing, “Point Break” serves up a Who’s Who list of action-sports stars — some of whom saw opportunities open when the original movie helped bring extreme sports to the masses.
“For Generation Xers, that movie was an inspiration for us,” said wingsuit pilot Jeb Corliss, who helped with the remake. “It made you think that maybe you can earn a living doing something you love.”
The filmmakers traveled to four continents and spared no expense to shoot the action.
It took around 60 takes to produce a heart-pounding, five-minute scene of the movie’s philosophical antihero, Bodhi, and his wingsuit-wearing posse jumping off the Jungfrau in the Swiss Alps, dodging mountains and skimming just above valley floors on the way to a safe landing. Corliss called it the most dangerous stunt that’s ever been filmed for a movie.
Big mountain snowboarders Ralph Backstrom and Mike Basich joined De Le Rue in playing Bodhi, Johnny and the rest for their near-vertical trip down the Aiguille de la Grande in France. One portion of the filming triggered a Class 4 Avalanche.
“Sure, it would have been a hell of a lot easier to shoot these scenes on a green-screen stage in Atlanta,” director Ericson Core said. “But honestly, that wouldn’t respect those sports at all. We pushed the limits as far as we possibly could.”
These extreme stars are no strangers to this kind of danger. But more often, their travails are performed among themselves or, at best, made into movies and videos that bypass Hollywood and are distributed straight to the niche audiences that care the most about this stuff.
It brings special meaning to a question Bodhi poses midway through the movie: “If a tree falls in the woods, and nobody is there to YouTube it, did it really happen?”
Well, the tree called “Point Break” is dropping on Christmas — same as the NFL-medical-detective film “Concussion.” That movie portrays a league that, for decades, put lives on the line for the sake of entertainment while teetering between denial and reluctant acceptance of football’s life-altering consequences.
“Point Break” deals with some similar issues differently: Both the movie’s characters and the extreme athletes who perform their stunts are more than willing to risk their lives for a cause. They don’t shirk from their reality. They revel in it.
“I can’t tell you why any one person does it, but for me, I want to evolve as a human being, see how far I can go,” Corliss said.
Bodhi takes that ethos and pushes it to the brink — and beyond.
This isn’t really a spoiler.
Whether you memorized the first “Point Break” or are completely new to these movies, it’s no mystery from early-on that things cannot end well for “The Bodhisattva.”
But like its predecessor, the 2015 film is more about the morally complex and adrenaline-saturated journey than the final resting place.
Or, as Bodhi puts it: “We’re all gonna die. The only question is ‘How?’”