Red Dawn (2013)

15 March 2013

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A re-boot of the 1984 cult-classic hit film featuring Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen, RED DAWN stars man-of-the- moment Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Snow White And the Huntsman, Avengers) and a host of bright young talent including Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games), Josh Peck (The Wackness), Adrianne Palicki (G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Friday Night Lights), Connor Cruise (Seven), Isabel Lucas (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen, The Possession, Grey’s Anatomy).

In RED DAWN, a city in Washington State awakens to the surreal sight of North Korean paratroopers dropping from the sky – the U.S. has been invaded and their hometown is the initial target. Quickly and without warning, the citizens find themselves prisoners and their town under enemy occupation. Determined to fight back, a group of young patriots seek refuge in the surrounding woods, training and reorganising themselves into a guerilla group of fighters. Taking inspiration from their high school mascot, they call themselves the “Wolverines”, banding together to protect one another, liberate their town from its captors, and take back their freedom.

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“A badly acted, scripted and directed piece of cinema, that won’t even do as an unintended comical self-parody.”

‘Pointless’ seems to be the favoured adjective that is being used by critics and fans alike in relation to Dan Bradley’s remake of the Cold-War era cult favourite Red Dawn. One can’t help but feel that it is slightly over celebrating what is essentially a shoddily put together, badly acted, scripted and directed piece of cinema, that won’t even do as an unintended comical self-parody.

Bradley’s debut stars Chris Hemsworth and Josh Peck as brothers Jed and Matt Ecket, respectively, who belong to one of the most “All-American” families ever portrayed (Jed is a marine, Matt a quarterback for the college football team and their father a cop) that find themselves, all too quickly as far as plot development is concerned, being invaded (along with the entire US) by the North Korean army.

As they escape to the hills, picking up a few friends and potential love interests along the way, they witness the unconvincing terror that their fellow citizens are being subjected to and eventually decide that they must fight an army that is apparently capable of invading the US by ambushing small checkpoints and bases, as they form the 'Wolverines'.

The first few minutes of the film are actually quite promising; the viewer is shown a montage of real footage that lays the foundation of the story. The US have committed too many troops abroad and coupled with the economic crisis that has left them vulnerable at home, even to the army of a nation that have no navy and no way of transporting any meaningful number of troops more than a couple of hundred Kilometres. North Korea’s only menacing tool of intimidation, the dreaded nuclear bomb, is nowhere to be seen. Neither is North Korea's main business partner and protector, China. (The story was actually changed in order to be able to access the ever lucrative Chinese box office market making North Korea the antagonizing invaders and not China, as was originally intended.)

The development of the characters is not poor, but totally non-existent. Apart from a few minutes in a bar when we are very briefly introduced to them, there simply isn’t enough emotional attachment between the audience and the Wolverines for the audience to care whether they live or die. It also fails completely to grasp any meaningful psychological aspects to human beings having their way of life turned upside down and their rights and freedom completely evoked by a ruthless foreign invader.

The performance of Chris Hemsworth is the only positive(ish) aspect of this film. He plays the leader and primary trainer/military tactician of the Wolverines and does as well as one can do with the terrible script and story that he had to work with.

The original John Milius movie was aimed at a generation of Americans who spent their entire life being bombarded by fear and had to face up to possible nuclear annihilation that the cold war offered and were made to feel like passive audiences due to the nature of the conflict. Milius realised their worst nightmares by showing them what a Soviet invasion might be like, but then also gave them the power to fight and take their destiny into their own hands through the bravery of the Wolverines. Bradley’s remake serves no such purpose. Or any purpose for that matter. One must admit that the word ‘pointless’ is a more sufficient summary than first thought.

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