[Review] – Red Dawn

2 Dec

Red Dawn

Title: Red Dawn
Year: 2012
Director: Dan Bradley
Writers: Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore, based on a story by Kevin Reynolds, based on the original 1984 screenplay by Mr. Reynolds and John Milius
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Isabel Lucas, Connor Cruise, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
MPAA Rating: PG-13, sequences of intense war violence and action, and for language
Runtime: 114 min
IMDb Rating: 5.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 12%
Metacritic: 32

The original Red Dawn is a 1984 movie that starred, among others, Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen, and made a decent $40 million on a $4.2 million budget. Then, way back in early 2008, MGM decides they want to remake that movie, with Dan Bradley making his directorial debut after being a stunt coordinator and second unit director on many blockbusters. In 2009 they start production and seal the deal for a Thanksgiving 2010 release. Then the MGM financial issues started taking place and the whole thing was shelved.

Enter FilmDistrict, who bought the U.S. distribution rights to the film last year, after some work was done in post-production to change the villains of the film from the Chinese to the North Koreans (so that they could show this movie in China, where the box office can be massive), and is finally now giving it a release, two whole years after it was supposed to see the light of day and over four since it was first conceived.

Granted, it was actually a lucky thing that it was shelved for a while because two of its stars, Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, have become much more famous in the process (thanks to Thor and The Hunger Games, respectively) so the film no doubt got a push from having their names, which now mean something, attached. Their names, unfortunately, can’t do a thing to affect the quality of the finished product which is, admittedly, pretty crappy.

I’ll come out and say that I haven’t actually seen the original 1984 movie, so it’s not like I can compare the two, I just really hope that it’s not as bad as this one because that would make whoever made the decision to remake it seem even dumber. The general conceit is the following: we’re in the city of Spokane, Washington, and the whole town awakens to the sound and sight of North Korean paratroopers descending upon them, invading the U.S. and making their hometown the initial target. And we’ll focus on a group of teenagers who find refuge in the woods as most are being taken prisoners and resolve to fight back and get back their freedom.

The whole thing is just a tremendously bad movie that doesn’t even pretend to be the tiniest bit concerned with any sort of character development or cohesive logical structure to its plot. Logic is thrown out the window the second the movie really trusts to believe without any kind of questioning that a full-on North Korean invasion can be fought back basically by a small town’s football team and their girlfriends (they’ll call their guerilla movement the Wolverines, after the team’s mascot, natch). Sure, Jed, Mr. Hemsworth’s character, is a Marine who’s just gotten back home from, which will obviously make him the leader of the pack, but come on, you won’t buy into this.

I wasn’t buying into it for a number of reasons. On the one hand, I really doubt North Korea would be dumb enough to invade the U.S. when you consider their comparable size of demographic; then you have the fact that the filmmakers attempted to cover up that illogical move with an even bigger one, which is the fact that you have to believe that the rest of the U.S., meaning the government, kind of just doesn’t notice this invasion and lets the kids of Spokane to fight by themselves; then you have to believe that these kids are all just naturally skilled at handling weapons and killing an actual army, I don’t care how kickass Adrianne Palicki was as Tyra in Friday Night Lights, I’m just not buying that schtick.

So, yeah, Red Dawn requieres you to believe all that, that these kids will instinctively know how to operate heavy-duty weapons and be master strategists in front of an actual army, all of that with basically no character exploration whatsoever. Yes, we get that Jed’s younger brother, played by Josh Peck, resents him for enlisting and leaving so soon after their mom died, but mostly these guys just shout stupid orders and silly instructions to one another, and, yes, of course we’ll also get the occasional patriotic speech from Mr. Hemsworth. Jeffrey Dean Morgan then comes along to be the grown-up shouting orders, because why not.

I’m really intrigued though, to be honest, to check out the original Red Dawn. The timing of that film with the Russians as the bad guys must have captured the whole Cold War feelings and tapped into the patriotic machismo of the era. In this one there’s not even that sort of timely conviction to find solace in. There are a couple of times in which this one hints at getting a bit political, but it doesn’t even pretend to dare to go all the way in that direction, instead being comfortable in giving us incoherent, not-even-bloody PG-13 action sequences that make this a horribly generic piece of fluff I won’t remember a month from now.

I won’t give this film a failing grade because it doesn’t really do anything to deserve that. I kind of like Mr. Hemsworth and Mr. Hutcherson as actors even though they obviously weren’t given much to do here, and every chance to see a Friday Night Lights alum on-screen is one I welcome no matter how crappy the vehicle (I really, really miss Dillon). Mr. Bradley shows that he comes from the action world as a stunt coordinator, because even though those scenes are badly edited at least they’re made well and make the most out of the crappy effects they have, but there’s zero characterization, zero attempts at being relevant or daring, zero attempts at being something worth remembering.

Grade: C-

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