Red Dawn (2012)

Red Dawn is another remake that didn’t need to be remade. And despite a slew of pretty good actors working with a workaday script, it doesn’t get past the ‘okay’ evaluation. Nonetheless, there are some nice scenes and set pieces and it’s not a terrible movie.

Here’s a trailer:

Here are some deets:

Released November 21, 2012

Written by Carl Ellsworth, and Jeremy Passmore based on the screenplay and story by Kevin Reynolds and John Milius

Directed by Dan Bradley

Starring: Adrianne Palicki, Isabel Lucas, Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Alyssa Diaz, Connor Cruise, Edwin Hodge, Brett Cullen, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Rated PG-13

*     *     *     *     *

Story

If you don’t know the story of Red Dawn, you must be living either under a rock or in, say, Zimbabwe. Essentially, the communists show up and take over a plot of US soil, whereupon a cadre of young people commence work as guerrilla warfare operators. Their goal is to get back at the stinking commies for all the murders they’ve committed and to keep them on their heels while the USA regroups.

In the 2012 version, the overall story is the same. The young people are led by Jed (Hemsworth) and include Jed’s brother Matt (Peck), the girl who’s had a torch for Jed for years, Toni (Palicki), Matt’s girlfriend Erica (Lucas), the nerdy but brave Robert (Hutcherson), the son of the mayor, Daryl (Cruise), all of whom are friends, along with a few others. Two of the others are Julie (Diaz) and her friend Greg.

Jed is a US Marine on furlough. His and Matt’s dad is a sergeant in the Spokane police force. Jed and Matt, along with a substantial group, escape from the city to their family cabin, whereupon they are shortly found and horrible things happen to their loved ones with the intent of getting these kids to turn themselves in.

The invaders are very ambitious North Koreans. This area’s soldiers are led by a man named Chu. He’s ruthless.

So the group of young people, dwindling in size due to casualties and other attrition, wage war on the invaders. Their plan: just keep disrupting the operations of the North Koreans. All of this leads to a meet-up with some actual Marines and a plan to really kick the resistance movement into gear.

The culmination is a fiery, fast-paced showdown.

Critique

The film unfolds precisely how you expect it to, with quite a lot of patriotic fervor and a little preaching about the concept of international aggression. You have some genuinely tense scenes, particularly the escape from the city, but all in all, there isn’t a lot of life to the film, despite a talented cast. There are plenty of explosions, some of them very nicely done, particularly the airplane crashing into the house.

The humor, rare though it is, is welcome and brings a little light to the otherwise needlessly sober film. Think about it: the concept here is preposterous to the level that Die Hard movies are, and those movies are so darned effective because of the sardonic and timely humor. They’re also effective because they have a confident, charming, playful and mean lead.

Red Dawn suffers because of its sobriety, spending too much time and effort setting up what the moviemakers clearly wanted to become iconic, stirring images. But these images fall somewhat flat because they are too easy and convenient.

The film needed a better screenplay, and it needed to spend more time developing its characters. These people are self-sacrificing, heroic people, but it’s hard to care about people who click into soldier mode incredibly fast and whose reactions to the death and mayhem aren’t given time to organically produce empathy in the audience. The script didn’t give the actors enough to work with, and the actors make a game effort, but can’t pull it off.

So it’s worth seeing, but not paying full price for. Rotten Tomatoes critics are jaded puppy haters in general, so they are clearly resistant to the inspirational bits and their reviews reflect that. This isn’t a 1-star film. They’re wrong.

Content warnings: Plenty of non-gory violence and explosions.

Writing: 2          Acting: 3.5          Overall: 2.5

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About jared

Jared Garrett works as a writer, the manager of a program development department in the corporate world, and an instructional designer. He is a family man with an adorable, fun, and way-too-smart wife, six silly kids, a new house with an overgrown back yard, seven fish, and a bunch of chickens. He has written fiction, user manuals, SEO copy, radio scripts and textbooks and has won first place in the Mayhew writing contest at BYU and received honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest. He lives at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains and is currently seeking representation for his myriad completed novels.
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