Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) used to be an up-for-anything thrill seeker. But after he is chastened by the death of a friend during a motocross stunt gone wrong, he decides to become an FBI trainee. His background in extreme sports comes in handy, however, when his higher-ups announce that they're on the trail of a crew whose motivations for larceny they find baffling: The gang commit daring heists like one in which they roar through a diamond-sorting facility in India on motorcycles while scooping up trays full of gems, but when they parachute to safety they shower the destitute village below with all of the loot. What motivates these anticapitalist tricksters?
Utah's theory is that they're committing these heists as a side amusement while completing the Ozaki Eight, a series of near-impossible extreme-sports challenges created by a now-deceased Japanese polyathlete, and which are designed to foster enlightenment by communing with Mother Earth and thereby saving her from those who would plunder her riches. He gets the go-ahead to infiltrate the group and returns to the party-hearty extreme-sports scene, where he meets Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez), a surly, tattooed, and enigmatic free spirit and self-styled Buddhist who spouts millennial koans like "If a tree falls in the forest and no one posts it on YouTube, did it happen?"
The bulk of this remake of Kathryn Bigelow's super-gnarly 1991 surf thriller is devoted to Utah's escapades in the wilderness with Bodhi's crew, which are expanded from the original to include rock climbing, snowboarding, BASE jumping, surfing 80-foot waves, and using wingsuits -- the latter makes the wearer look like a nylon flying squirrel and provides the movie's most exhilarating sequence, as Bodhi and the gang coast over a picturesque Swiss mountain range in what feels like a dream about flying made real. Judging from the ratio of stunt performers to special-effects technicians in the credits, the vast majority of these vertigo-inducing challenges were done by real athletes on location under actual conditions, and the authenticity of their physical accomplishments, as well as the grandeur of their unspoiled surroundings, are the best parts of what is essentially a high-octane nature travelogue.
That's not to say that this remake isn't an improvement on the original. It was a smart idea to make Utah a former extreme athlete, rather than the ex-football-player straight arrow played by Keanu Reeves in the 1991 version (Australian Luke Bracey's monotone, surfer-drawl American accent could be an homage to Reeves, too). That way, it makes sense when Utah must choose between the principled grief he feels at possibly luring his friend to his death and the Zen absolution -- "Hey man, everyone chooses their own path" -- that Bodhi's blissed-out philosophy provides. And while the movie's plot holes are massive -- why clamber up a mountain in pursuit of a fugitive when you could nab them with a helicopter at the top? How come a search for ecological rapture involves jetting around the world in fuel-burning planes? And are Buddhists really that into armed robbery? -- Point Break is still a reasonably taut thriller full of visceral delights.