The Good: Direction, Initial concept
The Bad: Flat characters, Stiff acting, Preposterous plot execution, Well beyond racist
The Basics: While the action-adventure aspects of Red Dawn may be visually enjoyable, the new remake of the early-‘80’s film is solidly bad.
Every now and then, I see a film that makes me feel solidly bad for virtually everyone involved. I come up with my own thoughts and motivations for those involved and sometimes, they are vastly more interesting than what is likely the truth. Red Dawn is one of those absolutely terrible films that made me come up with more thoughts on what was likely going on behind the scenes than what was actually going on on the big screen as I watched it. And I’m someone who does not walk out of free screenings!
So, here’s my theory: right around the time that Patrick Swayze died and people were celebrating his life and work, stuntman Dan Bradley said, “I want to direct a film!” Having been around Hollywood for many, many years, he had enough contacts that he was able to get a meeting with the higher ups at MGM and he said, “I have this great idea for a film! It will be smart, articulate, use amazing special effects, and have great action sequences!” The Hollywood executives (this being in W.L.’s fantasy world of course), said, “We would love to let you do your movie! However . . . it’s a big-budget film and you’re an untested director; we can’t greenlight that.” “Oh,” said Dan Bradley. But the executives said, “Wait a second, though! We’ll let you direct a smaller picture first, much like the Wachowskis did with Bound (reviewed here!) when they wanted to produce and direct The Matrix (reviewed here!).” And Dan Bradley, being a shrewd guy who had not seen Speed Racer, said, “I see how that worked out for them! I’ll do it!” And the executives said “Great! We’re putting you on the remake of Red Dawn.”
Ugh. If anything in that last paragraph entertained you, I’m ahead of the remake of Red Dawn, a film so universally bad that it seems like a charity event to all involved. One may only surmise that the remake of Red Dawn was greenlit when a lot of people with far too much money were drunk. I can only hope that Adrianne Palicki’s participation in the film as the token woman warrior sidekick Toni was because MGM bought her contract from Wonder Woman and she was thus contractually obligated to participated in the film. It is worth noting that, like the remake of Total Recall (reviewed here!) when I saw it, I have not seen the original Red Dawn yet. Unlike the remake of Total Recall, enduring this version of Red Dawn is in no way intriguing me to see the original film.
Jed Eckert is on leave, awaiting his next deployment with the Marines, dealing with his pissed off younger brother, Matt. While straightening out their familial resentments seems important one day, the next, their town is attacked by North Koreans. After a harrowing escape to their father’s cabin, the Eckerts and friends decide to launch a counter-offensive on the embedded North Koreans. Fighting off Captain Lo, the young people secure weapons and shoot their way to a guerilla victory on the least convincing film villains in quite some time.
Red Dawn is unsophisticated, obvious, and more than a little racist against North Koreans. Presented as monolithic villains, Red Dawn ridiculously postulates that the small Asian nation could stage a viable invasion of the United States (even with allies) and they are defeated by young twentysomethings, very few of whom should actually be able to reasonably launch a counterinsurgency. Director Dan Bradley competently directs the action sequences, which feature the young manly men doing manly things while the women follow behind and shoot big guns, too.
What Bradley fails to do is get even remotely interesting performances out of the main actors. Josh Hutcherson explores new depths of stiff that he only hinted at in The Hunger Games (reviewed here!) and Chris Hemsworth plays bland and monolithic that makes him seem solely like manmeat as opposed to a charismatic rising star.
With the characters written only as “types” instead of actual, viable, individuals, Red Dawn is presented in a way that makes it impossible to empathize with any of them. Writers Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore make a very basic attempt at establishing characters that are more than just monolithic warriors – mostly in the family conflict between Jed and Matt – but even that is so quickly set aside for young people running around with guns.
Red Dawn is lowest common denominator entertainment that utterly fails to entertain.
For other films with Chris Hemsworth, please check out my reviews of:
Snow White And The Huntsman
The Cabin In The Woods
For other film reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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