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Movie Reviews

Red Dawn



Reviewer: Philip Price

Director: Dan Bradley

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck and Josh Hutcherson

Released: 21st November 2012 (USA)

Having not yet been born when the original Red Dawn came out and it seeming to leave very little of a mark on pop culture I was never really motivated to look it up. Even when news came of a remake I found it hard to summon any real enthusiasm for the project. This seems to have all been with good reason as the new version of what seemed to be nothing more than a guilty pleasure in 1984 is now a laughable attempt to cash in on a recognizable name with a slew of pretty young faces running around, shooting guns and doing little to make sense out of anything. We know it is going to be a pretty rough go when the opening credits have been so mangled and re-tooled to shift the focus from China to North Korea, but if you knew that you already knew what to expect seeing as this was shot back in 2009. Even worse is when Josh Peck shows up in the first scene as the star quarterback of a high school football team. Working hard to shed his Nickelodeon image and sustaining his confidence after his weight loss the guy did pretty fun work in Jonathan Levine’s The Wackness a few years back but that film, and its story lent itself well to the actors cocky persona, here it only makes him seem more like a tool rather than the innocent kid who is supposed to become a leader. Peck is not the only offender in the bad acting class here though. This Red Dawn is full of undeveloped characters and unexplained plot lines, much less a reason for any of it happening. I expected a fun time, a light film that had a campy quality to it but what we were given was a lazy, irrelevant movie that will hopefully be forgotten really soon.

Josh Hutcherson and Adrianne Palicki prepare for battle.

First things first, let’s start with the ridiculous plot that doesn’t really seem to matter all that much. Once the small town, Americana feel is established by having a police officer father welcome home his soldier son as they watch their younger son and brother play quarterback for the local high school team in a Friday night lights scenario things in perfect little suburbia are thrown off track as planes with parachuting soldiers come flying over Spokane, Washington. Why are they there? What are they doing? What do they want? Your guess is as good as mine. Given, there is once scene that hints at a possible explanation, but it is so standard, so typical and no other agenda is given that we don’t care to know. We just want to see some people fight! That, at least, seems to be how the makers anticipated their audiences would want. And if that is what you come looking for then fear not because this Red Dawn literally seems to go from this band of kids led by Chris Hemsworth’s Jed take refuge in the woods and then at random will drop in on their town, blow a few things up and run back to the woods. There is a training montage that is funnier than most of the best scenes in any comedy this year and near the end a plot device is thrown in to give the young soldiers a goal to accomplish so we can say good job and go home. There is little more to it than that, seriously. With that thin of a plot don’t even hold out hope that you will care about the characters. Even those played by Josh Hutcherson, Connor Cruise, Adrianne Palicki, or Isabel Lucas. They will run together and you won’t care if they live or die and you won’t really know who is still alive or not because the film just skips on without a hint of logic. Then, Jeffrey Dean Morgan shows up and at that point we just let it all go and accept that this is exactly what we were afraid it would be.

Brothers Jed and Matt Eckert (Josh Peck and Chris
Hemsworth) along with Robert lead the pack of Wolverines.

Having never seen the original it is difficult to gauge how this one compares, but honestly it can’t be nearly this irresponsible to have warranted even consideration for a remake. There is a carelessness to the final product we have been given here and I don’t know if that is due to the fact it was shelved for two years or if it was the reason this was put on the shelf for two years. In the time since it has been shot Hemsworth has become a credible star and the producers should be thankful for that as without him the film would hold zero credibility. He is the only valid selling point for the film and likely only accepted the part due to his status in Hollywood at the time. They could have sold Hutcherson after his Hunger Games success but he plays too small a role here for that to have worked successfully. What is worse is that young audiences will go see this because it does feature a cast of well recognized youthful faces doing things that would normally be frowned upon. It is scary that they are sucked into this kind of crap (and it is nothing more than pure crap) rather than going to see films such as Life of Pi or Lincoln that would far better serve not only their intelligence rather than completely insulting it, but would also give them a better understanding of what makes a good storyteller, how truly compelling characters can really get to you, and when it is really done correctly how those thoughts and ideas you sometimes consider to yourself but never speak aloud can be explored by an artist and in turn provoke you to deepen your own pool of knowledge. Good movies, whether pure entertainment or not, make you want to know or learn more about something that intrigued you during the film. Red Dawn makes you want to do nothing but erase the last two hours of your life whether you get them back or not.

The Wolverines are soon joined by Col. Andy Tanner
(Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to fight North Korea.

I hate to be so blatantly angry or irritated with a movie and I really could just shrug and let it go, but everything about the film feels so cynical in its intentions that even the patriotism comes off as ingenuine. There is no stirring of spirit with young Americans that the film elicits, no it is simply an excuse to throw in cars and buildings getting blown up and having teenagers do it to stick it to the man who just happen to be a bunch of interchangeable Asian adults. It is like the film is stating that it is fine to play with guns and kill people when you have no idea what is going on. Yea, there are moments that are more tense than I ever thought this film might reach and there is justification for the actions these kids are taking, I’m not saying that but the way in which it is executed, the way it looks and the way it comes off are all horrible. Its like they took a group of kids who have no experience, no training in these types of situations and let them live out a video game where consequences don’t seem to be of a concern. It is foolish and I just couldn’t dig it no matter how much I tried to convince myself it was mindless entertainment. That is due to the fact it is not mindless, it is very well calculated to be some type of “what would you do if something like this happened” for young, easily influenced minds. This is not what would happen were our borders ever penetrated and I doubt such characters would even be allowed the chance to live as long and rebel as they did. The Wolverines as they are so cheesily called would become extinct very quickly. I can only hope the individual person sitting in the crowd watching this agrees with me rather than the collective group of young people believing this to be anything other than pure fiction.

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