There are big, loud and dumb movies, and then there are movies like
‘Red Dawn’, which deserve to belong to a category in themselves for
being sheer stupidity magnified. The fact that this was in fact a
remake of a 1984 movie that starred the likes of Patrick Swayze, C.
Thomas Howell, Charlie Sheen and Jennifer Grey is no excuse for how
blatantly silly the premise is – if you’re looking to give it another
go, the least you can do is to try to make it better.
For those who have not heard of that John Milius picture, its essential
conceit was how a ragtag group of teens become a formidable resistance
force when their peaceful community is suddenly attacked by an
occupying force. The Russians were the ones unfortunate enough to be
vilified then – not surprising given the lingering Cold War fears – but
writers Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore have made the North Koreans
the invaders this time round, though any real world relevance the
opening sequence of edited news footage might suggest the movie would
have is quickly thrown out of the window barely ten minutes into the
After briefly introducing the audience to the pair of brothers – the
newly returned Iraq War veteran Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth) and his
hot-headed younger brother Matt (Josh Peck) – the North Koreans are
literally dropped into the movie. Waking up the rumble of explosions,
Jed and Matt are horrified to discover that the sky is dotted with
North Korean bombers and scores of soldiers are parachuting into the
town in a hostile takeover attempt. If it already sounds unconvincing
as we are describing it to you, trust us when we tell you it looks even
more ridiculous on screen.
Are we supposed to believe that within the span of one night, the North
Koreans have suddenly made their way halfway across the globe to attack
America? Are we supposed to believe that they could have come with all
that firepower? And worst of all, are we supposed to even buy into the
fact that they would even bother about a small town called Spokane?
Sure, we would willingly suspend our disbelief for a movie that bothers
to make sense; but ‘Red Dawn’ makes no such attempt, and utterly
baffles in how it thinks it can get away with such an absurd setup.
Does it get better along the way? Absolutely not. Seeing his father
executed before their eyes, Jed comes to the conclusion that they need
to prepare for war – and just like that, he becomes training commander
of a young team of rebels who call themselves the ‘Wolverines’. They
learn to fight, to shoot and to hide, all in the name of preparing to
wage an urban guerrilla campaign against the North Koreans who have
taken over their town with their arsenal of soldiers, jeeps, and tanks.
And when they are finally ready, Matt decides to undermine their plans
by scuttling off to rescue his girlfriend Erica (Isabel Lucas), thereby
igniting a brotherly conflict between the rational and responsible Jed
and the impulsive and impetuous Matt. What a pathetic attempt at trying
to make us care about two stock types who frankly are just in the movie
so we have the good guys – the same goes for bringing Toni (Adrianne
Paliki) and Erica into the fray and building some sort of romantic
links between Jed and Matt respectively.
Even if we accept the tradeoffs in plot and character most B-movies
would have their audience make, the least director Dan Bradley could
have done is to mount some decently shot action sequences. That is
precisely Bradley should have done with his cameraman Mitchell Amundsen
– shoot him point blank. Clearly trying too hard to emulate the
‘Bourne’ films to lend the action a sense of urgency, the shaky
camera-work is downright frustrating to watch, and even more so because
the sequences – especially the final one set within a huge circular
room fronted on all sides with glass windows – are pretty promising to
No thanks to its abundant flaws, the movie also wastes its promising
young cast. Hemsworth has good presence as the smart leader of the team
(he takes over Patrick Swayze’s role in the original), while Josh
Hutcherson (who played Peeta in ‘The Hunger Games’ and here is in C.
Thomas Howell’s role) brings naivety and temperance to the role of
Robert Kitner, a bookish type who turns warrior because of
circumstance. Less convincing is Peck, who mostly just looks too stoned
to convey any sort of inner dilemma his character is supposed to face.
Nonetheless, the acting is the least of the flaws in a movie that is
painfully illogical and utterly nonsensical. Its invasion scenario
might have been able to fly with an audience in the ’80s, but to try to
transplant the same premise to today’s context is just plain daftness.
Ironically, there are some moments that appear to suggest that the
filmmakers are wise enough to know not to take the movie too seriously
– but those moments fade away as soon as the next unabashed
war-mongering scene arrives.