The 400-Word Review: Red Dawn
By Sean Collier
November 23, 2012
About the only thing to the credit of the forgettable and overblown 1984 action yarn Red Dawn was its timeframe. In the midst of the cold war, an invasion by determined Russians — assisted by communist sympathizers in Central America and the Caribbean — was a plausible premise. There were certainly those waiting for the Ruskies to parachute in above the high school; an affirming and sentimental treatment of that eventuality, then, had a natural audience and even something of an urgency.
In 2012, though, too many trade agreements would be disrupted by casting Mother Russia as the bad guy in a popcorn flick. Ditto for China, who was originally slated to invade in this year’s take on Red Dawn; the film began with the People’s Republic as the villain, but was hastily reworked when it was pointed out that MGM would probably prefer to actually sell tickets to China’s billion-plus moviegoers.
So a ragtag team of high schoolers — led by Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson and some other kids who I’m assured are familiar to teenagers — finds themselves fighting off an invasion of...North Koreans. I don’t want to stir the pot with Kim Jong Un, but I’m just not buying it. (For one thing, roughly the entire North Korean population would have to be mobilized just to perform the initial parachuting over Spokane, Wa.; apparently, the entire country is one big air force.)
So it’s left to director Dan Bradley, a longtime stunt coordinator and assistant director who finds himself at the helm for the first time, to attempt to make the exploits a milquetoast band of Hollister models engaging. He succeeds about once every 20 minutes or so; a sequence here or there is tense and watchable, particularly as the rebels get more daring with their assaults on occupied territory. In between, though, we have dull acting, an unconvincing story and at least one commercial for Subway restaurants.
The casual viewer will be periodically entertained and sometimes amused. The attentive viewer, however, will notice some not-so-subtle political messages roughly inserted into the screenplay by dullard scribes Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore. Without dignifying their inane attempts at commentary with discussion, let’s just say that it’s made clear which parts of the country are the “real” America. The joke’s on them, however: Any political movement associated with such a dumb movie can only suffer by the association.