Title: Red Dawn
Directed By: Dan Bradley
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Isabel Lucas, Connor Cruise, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
The “Red Dawn” remake has had a cloud over its head ever since MGM’s financial difficulties, the last minute enemy nationality change and the long delayed release, however, as a proponent of the 1984 original and a true believer that the story had major remake potential, some hope prevailed. I’m allowed to be optimistically naïve every once in a while, right?
It’s a typical night in Spokane, Washington, Matt Eckert (Josh Peck) desperately trying to take down the opposing team in the final seconds of a high school football game. His tendency to take matters into his own hands and “cowboy” his way into the end zone doesn’t prove effective and the Wolverines lose the game, however, that’s the least of Matt’s worries. Later that night, the town goes black and early the next morning, Matt and his Marine brother, Jed (Chris Hemsworth), wake up to North Korean bombs, fighter planes and armed paratroopers. Matt and Jed take to the mountains and hunker down in their family cabin with a few other escapees, but soon come to realize that there’s no use in merely hiding out. They have to defend their friends, family and town.
The original “Red Dawn” certainly isn’t a masterpiece, but it packs enough of a punch to get you rooting for the Wolverines. The 2012 “Red Dawn” finds some similar success, but to a far lesser degree, as the material is far too manic and illogical to support any attempts at character development.
And it’s too bad because Peck and Hemsworth are charmers. Matt can be selfish and impulsive and Jed can come across as a bit too rough and tough, but Peck and Hemsworth find success in turning them into well-rounded characters. Matt’s lack of concern for the group is juxtaposed by his desperation to rescue his girlfriend, Erica (Isabel Lucas), and while Jed is no-nonsense to the max, it’s his strict policies that keep the kids alive.
It’s a wonder how Josh Hutcherson manages to stand out as Robert. He’s branded the group tech geek right from the start, but the designation fizzles out fast and is ultimately wasted. But still, Hutcherson does make for an appealing lead, someone you can sympathize with even though he’s hesitant to kill a deer after having killed some North Koreans. Sadly Adrianne Palicki doesn’t get much to work with beyond the fact that her character has had her eye on Jed ever since they were kids. Connor Cruise has some nice moments as Daryl, but again, the juiciest aspect of his character, the fact that his father, the town mayor, is taken by the North Koreans and evidently turned, is cut off cold. As for Lucas, yet again, she proves she has the emotional range of a spoon. Oh, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan is in the movie, too.
Most cast achievements are rendered almost entirely meaningless, as their story has zero structure. Yes, the film explains that foreign nations are in disarray and North Korea is more hostile than ever at the start, but it still doesn’t justify the attack or the chain of events. Why does North Korean capture everyone and anyone if their intentions are to establish a new community under their rule? Why has the US government done nothing if some states are still free? And, perhaps most importantly, why is Subway still open for business?
We find similar issues when narrowing down the view to the Wolverines’ game plan. There’s just no way Jed could teach them all to be top-notch fighters after a mere montage. Those kids look way too pretty to have been living in the woods all that time. How are they charging that cell phone? And then there’s the ending. Without spoiling anything, the kids risk their lives for a big mission that ultimately amounts to nothing. Even worse, before the credits roll, “Red Dawn” opens the doors to another huge action sequence only to wrap the movie before the battle even begins. Not that “Red Dawn” should be any longer than it already is, but come on.
Did we need a new “Red Dawn?” Perhaps we didn’t need one, but the idea did have potential, especially with a primarily solid cast. It’s just too bad that the filmmakers trade emotion and relationships for nonsensical firefights. The heart is there, it’s just drowned in an excessive barrage of bullets, silly dialogue and ill structured script.