***1/2 (out of 5)
November 21, 2012
Chris Hemsworth as JED ECKERT
Adrianne Palicki as TONI
Josh Hutcherson as ROBERT
Josh Peck as MATT ECKERT
Isabel Lucas as ERICA
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as COL. ANDY TANNER
Connor Cruise as DARYL JENKINS
Directed by: Dan Bradley
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Honestly, I don’t know what people were expecting with the remake of “Red Dawn.” I’m hearing a lot of angst from fanboys and critics alike who say it’s not that good. Well, of course it’s not that good. It’s the remake of a wacky right-wing fever dream from John Milius in the mid 1980s.
This ain’t Shakespeare. It never was.
Oddly enough, even though I was the perfect age of 13 when the original “Red Dawn” came out in 1984 (being the first movie slapped with a PG-13 rating, and allowing me to see it unencumbered), I never saw the film. I was more into “Dreamscape,” which was also one of the earliest PG-13 movies. I had meant to see “Red Dawn” for years, but I never got around to it.
I finally caught the movie a few months ago on DVD, and while it was perfectly fine as a lark of entertainment, I held no delusions about any high standard of quality. In fact, aside from its famed PG-13 rating, it’s most notable as having a solid cast of actors just outside of the Brat Pack. But as a piece of entertainment fluff, it wasn’t anything special. After all, it’s a movie in which a foreign government attempts to take over America by landing in the Nowhere, Colorado, which is strategically unimportant in the extreme.
The new film fixes some of the problems, making the beachhead location Spokane, Washington, which makes more military sense that the damn-near geographic center of the nation. The bad guys are the North Koreans now rather than the Russians, but overall it’s basically the same story.
A rag-tag group of high school kids take to the woods and become guerilla fighters against the oppressors. Aside from bigger explosions and a general higher production value, the main difference is the new “Red Dawn” features a plot element in which the Wolverines (which is the high school mascot the kids adopt as their freedom fighter name) have to infiltrate the enemy’s headquarters to seize their communication equipment.
Hollywood has been a bit crazy with its remakes lately, often begging the question of whether the remake is necessary or even relevant to the original. Personally, I’m not bothered by the new tread on the tires of Milius’s “Red Dawn.” Though some consider it a classic, it makes sense to bring it to a new generation.
Director Dan Bradley definitely pushes all the right buttons. He casts the film with up-and-coming stars (actually in an uncanny way considering this was made before Chris “Thor” Hemsworth and Josh “Hunger Games” Hutcherson blew up) and pretty faces. He plays off the family drama and the arrogant inexperience of the characters, just as the original film did. And, it’s another fever-dream flag-waver of a film, and that’s what helped make the first film a hit.
“Red Dawn” isn’t a particularly good film. The acting is quite terrible at times, and the writing isn’t all that good. In fact, the biggest issue with this film is it feels a bit sanitized at times. While the script isn’t afraid to kill off anyone, or literally leave them stranded on the side of the road, it’s not as grim of a delivery. There’s a bit more hope in this film, and that’s not the greatest sin. However, Milius’s original does manage to simultaneously show the inevitable pain and the inevitable necessity of war.
I doubt “Red Dawn” is going to live on as a pseudo-classic like the original, but it is entertaining through most of its relatively short running time. As an exploitative remake of an exploitative flick from the 80s, it’s still fun to watch.