Point Break Review

One of my favourite quotes on filmmaking is from director Jim Jarmusch; “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels with your imagination.” While people might be quick to dismiss it, those who know their film history can argue the difference. We see this idea in thousands of celebrated films; Star Wars, Daniel Craig’s James Bond films and nearly all of Tarantino’s filmography. Sadly, it’s the same reason why shoddy remakes are made as well. What a coincidence then, that a remake of Point Break is out this week. How does it stack up against the original?

Point Break stars Edgar Ramirez, Luke Bracey, Ray Winstone and Teresa Palmer and is directed by Ericson Core. Based on the 1991 film of the same name, the film follows FBI Agent Johnny Utah (Bracey) as he goes undercover to stop a gang of extreme sports athletes from disrupting the world economy.

The script is atrocious. While the original had some moments of “surfer dude” talk about fighting against “the man” and “the system”, the remake just goes overboard, with every two seconds being filled with conversations about being “one with the earth” and “fear is the master, you are the slave”. It’s less of a script and more a collection of inspirational bumper stickers. The times when it isn’t the surfer dude mantra, is expository, leading to some hilariously bad lines. It feels like so much of an afterthought, I wouldn’t be surprised if the action scenes weren’t even shot for the film, instead a script and additional scenes were created after to get it into cinemas.

The action scenes were promising at first, but most are rather boring. The remake tries to one-up the original by staging several extreme sports; snowboarding, wing-suit gliding, base-jumping, free climbing, motocross and of course, surfing. They are linked together by something called the Osaki 8, a mythical set of eight ordeals to honour the forces of nature. This is obviously the films major selling point, and sure, it’s nice to see some breathtaking scenery, but even in what are supposed to be the high-octane scenes of the film, it falls flat. I’ve linked it back to the characters, we don’t care about them. We haven’t warmed to them so we aren’t bothered that they are coming so close to death. In fact they don’t care either. One of them dies half way through and literally after a ten second scene of mourning him, they are back to partying, drinking and having sex. It’s feels so absurd that I was shaking my head in disbelief.

It gets worse when the film tries to be Point Break though. There is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to the Ex-Presidents scene in the original, this time with Barack Obama, Vladamir Putin and George W. Bush instead of Reagan, Nixon, Johnson and Carter, and obviously the film ends with the 50-Year Storm wave. But the worst moment in the film is the re-enactment of, in the words of Nick Frost, “firing your gun up into the air while screaming argh” scene. Once I saw Utah pick up a gun, all I could think was, “Don’t do it, please don’t do it.” It’s ridiculous and out-of-place and really doesn’t make sense in the film. There is none of the bromance of Reeves and Swayze from the original, so it makes no sense for Utah to not just shoot Bodhi where he stands. I would actually be more lenient on the film if it wasn’t a Point Break remake. If it had changed a few of its characters and it’s story aspects then it could have been passably enjoyable. That’s how The Fast And The Furious started out and look how well that’s done.

The French director Jean-Luc Goddard once said: ‘It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.” Director Ericson Core has taken Point Break to the depths of cinema hell. Don’t waste your money, I’ve haven’t even seen Deadpool yet and I bet it’s more enjoyable.

Score: 2/10 Take the film out of the cinema and shove it down the toilet.

(I did go and see Deadpool and it was more entertaining. Read the review here).

Knock Knock Review

When I first heard about Knock Knock, I was pretty excited. One of my favourite actors ever, Keanu Reeves, teaming up with renowned horror film director Eli Roth to create a low budget home invasion horror film, what could go wrong?

Knock Knock stars Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo and Ana De Armas and is directed by Eli Roth. When his wife and children leave on holiday for the weekend, Evan (Reeves) is terrorised by a pair of femme fatales, Genesis and Bel (Izzo and De Armas respectively) after he let’s them into his house.

With Eli Roth as the director, I was hoping for some over-the-top violence and skin-crawling moments of savagery. His best-known films are the two horror masterpieces Cabin Fever and Hostel, with the latter one of the films that was considered in coining the phrase “torture porn”. While Knock Knock has an 18 certificate, Eli Roth doesn’t bring any of his trademark violence to the film. There are only really two moments of “violence” in the film and neither one is that visceral. One is making Reeves listen to a high-pitched feedback loop, which doesn’t really work since the sound effect that we get in the cinema isn’t anywhere near high enough.

The 18 certificate according to the BBFC is for “sustained and sadistic threat, sex, sex references and nudity.” The sadistic threat is what provides the bulk of the film, and is actually done pretty well. There were moments where my stomach churned as Izzo and De Armas explain to Reeves what sadistic torture method they are going to do to him, their sultry accents somehow making it seem even more despicable. The sex, nudity and references however seem pretty childish and awkward in their execution. The dialogue about sex feels like a 12 year old trying to write how he thinks adults talk, and the sex scenes look pretty cheesy with clichéd imagery such as hands grasping at bed sheets and lingering symbolic imagery of the rain pouring down outside.

The story would have been a interesting take on the home invasion genre, if it wasn’t just copied straight from the 1977 exploitation film Death Game. I won’t go too much into the story as I have the policy of no spoilers, but just to say that the way the whole plot is put in motion will leave you with no characters to root for. Despite Reeves’ insistence that he is a “good person” you know that he is anything but, leaving us as the audience cold since we have no one to project onto. The story however does allow for some subtle exploration into the themes of rape, consent as well as some subverting of gender tropes and an end scene about trial by social media, but all of it is just fluff and isn’t really explored apart from a few lines of throwaway dialogue and imagery.

The acting by all is bad, and I mean REALLY bad. While Izzo and De Armas play their roles of Genesis and Bel with more than a healthy dose of unhinged madness, it falls into pantomime fairly early on. Keanu Reeves meanwhile is overacting to the highest degree. Maybe I’m asking for more than a schlocky B movie can provide, but there were many times that I was laughing silently in the cinema because of Reeves’ acting. It’s mostly due to his overacting, enough to challenge Nicolas Cage in The Wicker Man, that the film falls flat at any of the home invasion horror that Eli Roth wanted to film.

By the end I was thoroughly appalled and amazed at how bad everything was, but was then stunned by the emergence of the song Where Is My Mind by The Pixies, the exact same song that is at the end of the excellent Fight Club. At that point I just couldn’t contain it any longer and began laughing my head off while the credits rolled.

The only real merit I can give Knock Knock is including the very talented Francisca Valenzuela in the soundtrack of the film, as Reeves plays the two girls one of her songs. Much how the excellent John Wick (which oddly enough also stars Keanu Reeves) introduced me to the female duo KALEIDA, Knock Knock introduced me to the work of Valenzuela, and for that I thank the film for bringing a brilliant musician to the forefront.

In conclusion, Knock Knock is just another throwaway horror film that fails to produce anything that is actually scary. It had the potential to become a cult classic, but weak acting and a daft and disappointing ending spoil what could have been a B Movie guilty pleasure.

Score: 3/10 Nothing of merit to recommend it.

John Wick Review

John Wick has been one of my most anticipated films of 2015. I mean, I heard about this film all the way back in mid 2014, followed its success in every other territory that it was released in, read the Guardian review of it in October 2014, and then had to wait another six months before I could finally watch it. But boy was it worth the wait.

John Wick stars Keanu Reeves as the title character, Willem Dafoe as his friend/co-worker Marcus and Michael Nyqvist (well known for the Swedish version of The Girl With Dragon Tattoo) as his ex-employer Viggo. When his pet dog is killed and vintage ’69 Mustang are stolen by a gang of Russian thugs, John Wick comes out of retirement, as he was once a revered hitman, to exact revenge.

First off, this film looks gorgeous. With rain-slicked streets, neon infused nightclubs (and subtitles) and swanky hotel suites littered throughout the entire film, credit is due to cinematographer Jonathan Sela, who captures several beautiful scenes. The nightclub in particular, which houses one of the best action scenes of the film, is awash with contrasting red and blue lighting, giving us a beautiful silhouette effect on the characters that are fighting.

Praise must be given to all actors and actresses involved, who all give standout performances. Keanu Reeves doesn’t really display much emotion (that’s unfair, I do like Keanu Reeves) but special praise must go to him for his performance of many of the stunts and fight work, which at age 50 is pretty spectacular. Willem Dafoe and Michael Nyqvist play both their roles with some beautiful overacting, and Adrianne Palicki as the possibly psychotic hitwoman Miss Perkins is fun to watch interact with Reeves. A small role for Lance Reddick as a concierge has some funny quips, but the star everyone will fall in love with is Andy, the beagle puppy. Even if you hate dogs, the first time the camera zooms in on his face, with his large brown eyes, you’ll melt.

While the story is paper-thin at best, another thing I really liked about John Wick was the world-building it did. Throughout the film Reeves makes his way to bars, clubs and hotels where he is known, and which are filled with other hitmen and women. Sometimes they’ll see each other and exchange greetings, and reminisce about previous work, and it all works without coming off as odd. Mr. and Mrs. Smith did a similar thing, what is does is flesh out the world. It almost makes me want to see a prequel/sequel, just so that we get to explore the world full of assassins again.

The fight scenes, while sometimes stunning, do occasionally focus on extreme close ups, which leads to some fight scenes being a bit unfocused. To continue with a couple of the other negatives, the first half of John Wick does seem a bit overly long, and that does mean it suffers from some pacing issues in the second half when what should be big important fight scenes are pushed quite close together.

Another problem is the score for the film. While the film has several composers, with Tyler Bates and Joel J Richard creating most of the original score (notable past work includes 300, Rise of The Argonauts, The Bourne Identity and Guardians of the Galaxy) the score here feels a bit generic, with only THINK by female duo KALEIDA being memorable. However, those few nitpicks don’t dilute the film too much into being anything short of enjoyable.

In summary, John Wick is a must for action fans or those looking to see some fantastic camera work or in camera stunts. If you like The Raid or its sequel (two of my favourite films of recent years) then I would strongly recommend John Wick.

Score: 8/10 Classy cars, sharp suits and visceral violence makes this film one to remember