After being filmed in the Fall of 2009 this needless remake to 1984’s Red Dawn sat on the shelf for three years before finally being released in theaters this Thanksgiving. The new version of Red Dawn is an uninspired trainwreck of an incredulous plot mixed with a gritty attempt at character study, draped in the flag of simplistic patriotism that would make Michael Bay proud, that can never decide what kind of movie it actually wants to be.
Where the original film saw the United States invaded by the Soviet Union, the remake chooses China as the new baddies. However, unwilling to lose the lucrative Chinese movie market, the studio spent another $1,000,000 in post production and CGI to recast North Korea as Red Dawn‘s new villains. Because, in Hollywood’s view, all Asian bad guys are so easily interchangeable. Seriously, I’ve seen WWII propaganda films which were more subtle.
The sheer ridiculous of North Korea invading and taking over the entirety of the United States, in a single day, with an endless supply of bombers, shock troops, tanks, Humvees and giant flags (which adorn the buildings around all the conquered towns) is impossible to ignore. Had the film decided to embrace the sheer ridiculousness of its premise and simply run with this braindead storyline it might have made a fun but forgettable summer flick. Sadly, that’s not the case.
Instead the plot focuses on is the relationship between a returning Marine (Chris Hemsworth) and his estranged younger brother (the incessantly annoying Josh Peck) as the pair lead a group of kids (Adrianne Palicki, Josh Hutcherson, Isabel Lucas, Edwin Hodge, Alyssa Diaz, Connor Cruise) into becoming guerrilla soldiers fighting for their home. And, for the ladies, sreenwriters Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore have thrown in three separate love stories, none of which come close to being fully developed. The film focuses on the dysfunctional group struggling to survive and far too often forgets to have the mindless fun that is the sole selling point for a film like Red Dawn.
There is some fun to be had, when our characters aren’t moping around in the woods or sniping trite dialogue at one another and choosing the invasion of their home town as the perfect moment to finally deal with the insipid emotional baggage which has been buried for years. Sadly, there’s simply not enough of the mindless enjoyment you’d expect from a remake of an 80’s action flick. The arrival of Jeffrey Dean Morgan and his team help liven things up somewhat in the movie’s second-half, but by then most will probably have lost interest.
Red Dawn also lacks even the basic logic of a summer blockbuster. The ease of the North Koreans invasion is explained by a top-secret EMP weapon which knocked out power across the United States. Okay, fine. Stupid to be sure, but this is a movie where the Russians help transport millions of troops, armored vehicles, and weapons to every corner of the United States without a single person noticing – so a super-awesome EMP is hardly the movie’s biggest plot problem. However, if the EMP allows the North Koreans to invade, would somebody explain to me why cell phones, car batteries, and any building where the plot needs electricity to operate, are completely unaffected?
To paraphrase former Arizona Cardinals Head Coach Dennis Green Red Dawn is what we thought it would be: an ill-conceived remake absolutely no one was demanding. The movie relies on basic jingoistic patriotism run amuck that panders to the basest humanity of its audience (there were more than a few whoops and hollers in the screening I attended) without earning a single moment of it. There’s a reason Red Dawn sat on a shelf for three years; that’s where it belongs.