16th Mar2013

‘Red Dawn’ Review

by Dan Clark

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Isabel Lucas, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Josh Peck, Connor Cruise, Edwin Hodge, Will Yun Lee, Jeffrey Dean Morgan | Written by Carl Ellsworth, Jeremy Passmore | Directed by Dan Bradley

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Remaking Red Dawn is an intriguing choice. The original was very much a product of its time that combined the zeitgeist attitude of the Cold War era with the overblown action style of the nineteen eighties. Now Russia is our ally and the fear of invasion has all but disappeared. This remake also had to contend with a number of political and financial difficulties. Originally schedule for release in 2010 it was shelved due to MGM’s money woes. During that two year layoff the film underwent a few changes. Initially the Chinese army was selected to replace Russia as the invading force, but recently the Chinese market has become more and more lucrative for movie studios. In order to keep that market open the invading army was changed to North Korea in post-production. With all these factors this Red Dawn remake was ripe for a chaotic meltdown of epic proportions. Although it definitely has its range of problems the end product was one that provided some fun action in a ridiculous scenario. What could have been a tangled mess turned into a decent romp full of guiltily pleasures.

Looming over the concept of this movie, like a famished vulture on withering pray, is the current lack of rival world powers. Consequentially for the story to be plausible they had to create a world where the idea of North Korea occupying America isn’t completely insane. To clear that hurdle the film begins with a montage of news stories that twist and alter current issues plaguing the world. (Or as cable news calls it: Journalism) With this sequence it amped up the tension and chaos between countries to make the world appear to be on the brink of World War III. Overall this sequence was necessary but sloppily presented. Dialogue was obviously altered and footage was heavily edited to fit their concept. (Also a common facet of cable news) It accomplished what it was attempting, however this moment also heightened the initial speculation I walked in with.

Luckily the film reestablished its footing soon after the lackluster opening. North Korean paratroopers slowly transcending upon this small town gave this absurdity a shed of reality. Watching a war scene play out in Suburban America was unsettling to witness. It rushed you into this moment of shock and awe and didn’t lead up. Overall the action in this isn’t anything you haven’t seen before, but it stayed fresh enough within itself to keep the pace moving. Guerilla warfare tactics were the main focus as a band of High School students, turned rebels, tried to drive the North Korean Army from their homeland. Juxtaposing the type of tactics used by many of our current real life enemies with what happens in this film could be unsettling for some. On paper it looks like a formula for an out of place political statement. Worry not because if any political statement was made by this movie it would have been by accident. The original film was certainly no philosophical look at impact of war, but this is neutered by comparison. Perhaps with no Cold War politics to play off of it focused solely on entertainment. War never altered the psyche of these teenage warriors nor did they struggle with any moral questions. Maybe the years of Call of Duty have desensitized the current generation further than we realize.

Somehow waiting to release this film for two years has worked out in its favor. Chris Hemsworth, who stars as the leader of the Wolverine rebels  Jed Eckert, has become a star due to films like Thor and The Avengers. In addition co-star Josh Hutcherson made a name for himself earlier this year with his role in The Hunger Games. Also starring in the film is Josh Peck, who plays Hemsworth’s estranged brother Matt. Nearly everyone in this movie is still coming into their own as actors. Though it’s easy to see why Hemsworth and Eckert have found success and the others have struggled. The dialogue is laughable at times yet Hemsworth and Hutcherson make it work while Josh Peck and others were subpar with their execution. Peck and Hemsworth played two brothers who continuously bumped heads and it was a mismatch every time. It didn’t help matters that Peck was given a character that was poorly written. His role was one of the few that had actual character development, but it came at a high cost. His decisions made him impossible to route for. If the script was stronger it could make us sympathize with his ludicrous choices. Instead you can’t help but wish for him to bite the bullet.

Forgiveness is needed all over  if you are going to enjoy this film at all. For those who can get behind the ludicrous nature of what they are doing you can discover a movie that offers plenty of enjoyment and a tad bit of heart. Aspects have been changed but what we are left with is a film that mirrors a lot of the original’s success and failure. It is guilty of taking itself too seriously at times, but it embraces its own cheesiness enough to overcome that factor. The world is a very different place than 1984 and this is a very different movie. Lacking any political connotations will stop the film from resonating with audiences in the same way as the original did.  Those looking for a light story that is heavy on action will be satisfied with what they are given, anyone looking for something deeper will be disheartened with what they are watching.

*** 3/5

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