I can still remember watching the 1984 film Red Dawn on my living room floor as an 11 year old boy, liking the action and being completely engaged. It would be safer to call the film a guilty pleasure, given that it is below average on the scale of 80’s action flicks. That being said, Patrick Swayze in a political action thriller is hard to pass up. Now, almost thirty years later, we are getting something similar. Well, I guess it’s safe to say it’s not just similar, it’s identical. A young, upcoming actor stars in a political thriller with an agenda to dog on a certain nationality. In ’84, it was the Russians. Now, in the 2012 remake of Red Dawn, it’s the Koreans. What a surprise. Yes, that was sarcastic. However, this film offers some highly intelligent and unpredictable twists along the way of its 93 minute runtime. That, I’m afraid, was sarcastic as well. Try a predictable script, some highly uninspired action sequences, and a flat ending that offers viewers nothing they didn’t get in the original.
Chris Hemsworth is one of the best up and coming actors of this generation, and with talent like his, it can be expected that he would be considered for a lot of roles. This happens to be the third film of 2012 with Hemsworth having a major role. The first was the substantial, groundbreaking horror film, The Cabin in the Woods, which happens to be one my favorite movies of the year. His second performance was that of Thor in Marvel’s The Avengers, also one of my favorite films of the year. The Avengers was obviously a smashing hit, making its mark as one of the most entertaining comic book movies in the genres history, and at the box office, as it holds the number three spot on the worldwide box office, grossing just over $1.5 billion. Unlike Joseph Gordon Levitt, another up and coming star, who has had four solid movies in 2012 (The Dark Knight Rises, Premium Rush, Looper, and Lincoln), Hemsworth suffers in Red Dawn. I am not saying that Hemsworth is bad in the film. He is actually really good; probably the best aspect of the entire film. He indeed suffers, though, under the lackluster script by Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore. It goes in no unpredictable directions and contains some uninteresting dialogue. Sadly, for Hemworth’s Jed Eckhart, the script offers him to do not much more than giving want-to-be-motivating pep talks to his team of “Wolverines.” The “Wolverines” consist of Josh Peck, Adrianne Palicki, Josh Hutcherson, and more. I think it is necessary to discuss Josh Peck in this review. I had a great interest in watching Peck in this film mainly because of his involvement in a television show I used to love called Drake & Josh. His quirkiness and wit was enough to get me hooked on the show, and it became one of my favorite sitcoms on TV. Even though I do like Josh Peck, it is unavoidable to note that he is simply not good in this film. He feels weak. Like they had to beg him to take the role so that late teens, like myself, would pay for a ticket to see him. Also, Josh Hutcherson, from a really good futuristic film this year, The Hunger Games, isn’t very good in the film, nor are the two girls, Adrianne Palicki and Isabel Lucas. Jeffery Dean Morgan pops up toward the climax of the film and offers some relieving work, but not for long as his character is succumbed to some dialogue that feels so unlikely and unlikable.
Dan Bradley directs this film, and it seems that he isn’t quite sure what he wants to do. Sometimes the film looks okay, but other times the shaky cam becomes a bit much, and even annoying, to the film’s overall feel. Sometimes the actors aren’t quite sure what they want to do and that can’t all be credited toward them, as the director is the one that oversees it all. The music in the film sometimes increases in irrelevance and brings the film down. It’s mostly all bad here.
Something that bugged the life out of me in this film was the frequency of the “Wolverine’s” visits to town. In the original, going to the town and invading the Russian’s terrain was incredibly risky and intense business that was dealt with extreme caution. In this film, they invade the town with no hesitation, and for some reasons the Koreans never take too much notice. Also, unlike The Hunger Games, which treated murder and bloodshed, important as it may be, as a weakening and deliberate action, this film glorifies the idea of kids killing people, and it is, in some ways, disgusting. Now to talk about the Koreans. Or, as some would call them, the villains of the film. Sure, it is implied that the Koreans are attacking the U.S. simply because they are Koreans, and that means they are bad guys in the world, which, if you think about it, is kind of offensive. However, the film’s script never capitalizes on the objective of the Korean’s invasion and what they plan to do once the hostages in America are held for a certain period of time. If they could be considered villains, they are some of the most poorly written and underdeveloped villains of the entire year.
So, in the end, Red Dawn is a sometimes offensive and all most times sloppy remake of a cult classic from the 80’s. Chris Hemsworth is a plus for the film, as is the invasion scene in the first act of the film. However, after the film picks up, it steadily falls apart. The dialogue is poor, the direction the characters go in are poor, and the final thirty seconds of the film are unsatisfying. It’s not the worst movie of the year, but it’s far from being the best.
Run Time: 93 mins
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of intense war violence and action, and for language
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Isabel Lucas, Conner Cruise, Jeffery Dean Morgan, Brett Cullen, Alyssa Diaz, and Will Yun Lee
Written by: Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore
Directed by: Dan Bradley