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Don't Hate On the New Point Break

Snowboarders Ralph Backstrom and Lucas DeBari rode as a stunt doubles in the new version of the film. The criticism, they say, is unjustified.
June 2, 2015, 12:35pm
Photo by @RalphBackstrom

On Wednesday Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros. released the trailer to the remake of the 1991 film Point Break. And let's get this out of the way, haters: I will be in theaters to see it on Christmas Day. Cringe-worthy lines—"I believe that, like me, the people behind these robberies are extreme athletes," Johnny Utah—will keep the film light. High-risk, wing-suited BASE jumps, dangerous big wave riding, and next-level snowboarding on the Italian side of Mont Blanc has my heart exploding into a million Red Bull-fueled butterflies. The point is, I'm all-in on Point Break.

The remake features a cadre of professional action sports athletes as stunt doubles in some recognizable locations around the world. The new version drew mixed reviews. As BASE jumper Jeb Corliss, also the technical advisor for the film's wingsuit flying unit, says in the behind-the-scenes featurette: "Remaking a cult film has its risks."

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With all due respect to Corliss, if The Fast and the Furious franchise can gross nearly $4 billion over seven films, with a reported eighth on the way, the risk in a Point Break remake is minimal. The 2001 original Fast and Furious basically stole the plot of Point Break, anyways.

VICE Sports spoke with stunt double and former Freeride World Tour Champion snowboarder Ralph Backstrom about the snow sequences in the film and people's negative reactions to remaking the classic. Fellow snowboarder and stunt double Lucas DeBari also weighed in.

Backstrom, 32, was one of five professional snowboarders selected as on-snow stunt doubles, along with DeBari, Xavier de Le Rue, Mitch Toelderer, and Mike Basich. Filming took place over two five-week sessions in Courmayeur, Italy. Backstrom rode in place of Édgar Ramírez, the Venezuelan-born actor cast as Bodhi. DeBari and de Le Rue rode as Johnny Utah, played in the film by Australian actor Luke Bracey.

Legendary snowboarder and backcountry pioneer Jim Zellers contacted Backstrom about snowboarding in the film. Zellers and mountain guide Tom Burt, a legend in his own right, served as stunt coordinators for the new Point Break.

"I was definitely a fan of the original movie," Backstrom says. "I used to watch it on VHS at the ski club my parents were members of at Crystal Mountain in Washington. I was probably a little too young to fully appreciate it."

Snowboarder Mike Baisch on the set of Point Break. Photo by @RalphBackstrom

In February 2014, Backstrom boarded a plane to Italy for initial shooting. The film was in its early stages and actor Gerard Butler, who starred in the Surfer magazine-inspired Chasing Mavericks, was still attached to star as Bohdi. The following month, Butler dropped out reportedly because of creative differences and scheduling conflicts. The snowboarders found themselves in a unique filming position, different from filming for an industry-based Absinthe or Teton Gravity Research film. This was for Hollywood.

"There were a lot of instances where someone would ask, 'Hey, why don't you do that?' and we'd have to say, 'no,' then point out of the various objective hazards that would make that line a terrible idea," said DeBari, 26. "They were open to our input and understood it was our decision to ride something. That said we were riding thousand-foot lines, four people at a time in relatively sketchy snow conditions. That was the vibe they were going for and we had to adapt."

Hollywood or not, Backstrom, DeBari and the other snowboarders wanted the snow sequences to be all-time. They heard rumors of the surf action being over-the-top and didn't want to be outdone by their fellow athletes.

"We knew some of the surfing was stuff like two guys in the tube at Teahupo'o," Backstrom says. "We didn't want the snowboard section to be weak. There were a couple iconic peaks picked out that went with the storyline."

When asked about the storyline, Backstrom said he wasn't at liberty to speak about the Bohdi character or much else, but that the film added more action sports to the mix. Backstrom shrugs off the negative response that flew across the Internet on Wednesday.

"It's pretty weird there's so many haters on Point Break," says Backstrom. "I understand that a classic part of the movie is how bad Keanu Reeves's acting is, but that means there's room for improvement. Why wouldn't you try to make it better?"

DeBari admits he isn't a fan of Hollywood action films. "It'll be cheesy. There's no way around it, but I think a lot of people will be into it because the film will be filled with so many cool action sports. The footage they captured is sick."

I'm all in on Point Break because the guys doing the actual snowboarding, surfing, climbing, and flying are insanely talented athletes. Like watching Steph Curry hit a three or Matt Harvey throw a fastball, this film will be a chance for the general public to witness human beings performing remarkable feats. In the case of Point Break, it's people like Backstrom and DeBari in some epic terrain. Who wouldn't want to see that?

Action sports rarely gets this type of production value awarded to it because let's face it: it's easier to make shot-for-shot action sports porn than it is to make a film with a plot. In Point Break we have enough of a plot to carry some of the most accomplished action sports athletes in the world doing their thing.