Red Dawn, 2012.
Directed by Dan Bradley.
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Connor Cruise, Isabel Lucas, Brett Cullen, Edwin Hodge, Alyssa Diaz, Will Yun Lee and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
A group of teenagers look to save their town from an invasion of North Korean soldiers.
Happy Holidays! The Christmas-Hanukkah-Kwanza season is upon us. And thankfully Hollywood tends to overstuff our cinematic stockings with so many movies that it’s like a film smorgasbord. What better way to celebrate the season of giving than by seeing a jingoistic, xenophobic piece of American propaganda with ridiculously good looking people swatting down the red menace with a furrowed brow and a seemingly endless supply of ammunition? Red Dawn is the gift that keeps on giving!
I was a big fan of the 1985 original. How big you ask? Big enough to have watched the film dozens of times where it fueled my adolescent fantasies of taking up arms against the Communist menace. Other kids were playing Star Wars or Transformers. I was painting my face with combat make up, sawing off the barrel of my pellet gun and running through the woods shouting “WOLVERINES!” See, when I was a kid the threat of annihilation at the hands of our Soviet enemies seemed plausible. Especially living in Florida where Cuba was just a stone’s throw away. I sure as hell wasn’t going to let Fidel Castro and his pinko commie buddies march into Miami without a fight. While other kids were playing sports or dreaming about going into space, I was constructing battle plans for how my rag tag group of Communist hunting commandos would cripple a Russian tank squad. To answer your question: yes, I was a troubled youth.
Now, twenty five years later, we are given a remake that nobody asked for. The original film is a great piece of cult cinema: an action film that tugged on your national pride and poked at our shared fears. No one will ever watch the original Red Dawn and call it classic filmmaking. It was however a wonderfully manipulative and frankly dour piece of B movie madness. The premise is simple enough. America is invaded by our enemies. Back then it was the Soviet Union. In the update it’s the North Koreans. That’s right. The North Koreans. You know, that country that can barely feed their own people or successfully launch a missile into space. The ones who have leaders that wear pantsuits and make weird claims about their sexual virility. I understand the concept of suspension of disbelief. However, if ever a movie was needed to legally challenge that concept, it may very well be Red Dawn.
So the North Koreans invade Washington state. Jed (Chris Hemsworth) is a Marine who has returned home after a tour in Iraq. When the invasion begins, he heads up to a cabin in the woods with his brother Matt (Josh Peck) and a rag tag group of teenagers trying to avoid being rounded up. After their father is brutally murdered at the hands of the villainous Captain Cho (Will Yun Lee), Jed decides to train his crew in the art of guerilla warfare. Soon the kids are becoming a royal pain in the ass to the North Korean army.
I’d be lying if I said Red Dawn was a good film. But it really isn’t a bad film either. It’s not going to do my credibility any good to be praising a piece of revisionist trash like Red Dawn. Though I can’t say I had a bad time watching it. The entire premise is so ludicrous that I found myself enamored by the actors ability to keep a straight face while trying to deliver high drama. Chris Hemsworth (Thor, The Avengers) has the ability to bring validity to any project he’s a part of. He’s able to deliver sincerity to potentially laughable characters like Thor. His part in Red Dawn could easily have devolved into stupidity, but the guy just gives it so much effort. He practically carries the entire film on his shoulders. His co-stars are a bunch of well intentioned one dimensional performers who struggle to generate an ounce of charisma.
While it’s not as bleak as the original, the updated Red Dawn tries to avoid platitudes and happy endings. There’s a lot of action in the film, although some of the scenes are edited with the finesse of a barber suffering a seizure. There’s not a lot of great filmmaking going on here, but Red Dawn features the kind of over the top, ham fisted approach that I prefer in my action films. It’s as dense as the flag waving patriotism it portrays and is liberated from the constraints of reality. It’s a world where a economically ravaged country can somehow become a global threat and where high school kids can take up arms and become trained killing machines overnight. Not perfect, but not terrible as ridiculous escapist trash.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★