Red Dawn – 2012
Director Dan Bradley
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Adrianne Palicki, Isabel Lucas, Connor Cruise, Brett Cullen, Will Yun Lee
Screenplay by Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore, based on the original screenplay by John Milius and Kevin Reynolds
The thing about Red Dawn, in any incarnation is the sheer lunacy of the premise. That some country, any country really, could via air assault sustain an invasion over any large geographical portion of the contiguous 48 states with an invasion force eminating from North Korea, (I think) China and Russia is too unlikely to fathom. Even so, Red Dawn plays out in an almost claustrophobic fashion. Anyone who has internalized the earlier film released 30 years ago will know what is going to happen, even if there is little logic to support its occurrence.
The film begins with a football game on a Friday night. The hero, Matt (Peck) is, surprise, the scrappy QB, who smiles in the face of defeat. That he has the best looking girlfriend might have a little to do with it. Looking on is his father (Cullen), the Sheriff, and his recently returned brother, the Marine, Jed (Hemsworth). The reunion is a somber affair, meant to show the way a house is run when Mom is not around. This is life in small town Spokane, although the lack of pine trees, along with the preponderance of deciduous trees make it look suspiciously like somewhere in the Midwest, say, Michigan.
The reason it has to be Spokane, one might figure, is to accommodate the wave upon wave of paratroopers being flown in from…well, not Canada, not Mexico. Perhaps 12 miles from the coast in the Pacific Ocean. I am not sure what carrier could support that many large planes. In fact, I am not sure how our fighter jet force at any of the myriad bases on the West Coast could not send jets to slaughter the lot of them before they lumbered across Washington state to deliver their precious cargo. But I digress. We need the willing suspension of our disbelief to let them land with their tanks, Humvees and Jeeps.
So here we stand, on the eastern side of Washington, watching the imagined town of Spokane crumble at the might of North Korea, and a Russian guy. Yes, that’s one Russian guy. He’s there for advice, and to wear a stupid beret. So, the force takes over Spokane and, presumably, other towns. Their job at this point is to stand around and be targets for the nimble footed high school students who wander safely around town among some of the other people who, for some reason, were not brought into the concentration camps. Oh, and there is a Subway sandwich shop open too, complete with a sandwich artist.
There are wins and losses, along with some inept dialogue, written by someone I thought might be better (Ellsworth, of Disturbia and Red Eye fame). It is directed with almost no imagination, other than changing the locales of certain scenes, and the timing of others. The acting is forgettable, giving us Hemsworth at around the time he made Star Trek, but before Snow White and The Huntsman, Thor and The Cabin in The Woods. It’s okay, though, because he’s playing the Patrick Swayze role before he was in Dirty Dancing, Roadhouse and Ghost. And like Swayze of the time, Hemsworth is low on the personality, but high on the beefcake.
Peck is unremarkable, and so is the rest of the cast, except for, maybe Hutcherson. This is just for the fact that by the time the film was completed in 2010, he’s learned how to capture the camera’s attention in below average fare like RV, Zathura and Journey to the Center of the Earth. He’s been in some pretty decent stuff since, so he has that going for him.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan shows up right about the time that Powers Boothe did in the original to give the kids some adults to shoot guns with. They get together for the one raid that should be a bit bigger and more elaborate because, you know, the movie is just about over. As we reach the end, we feel not as rallied as we should. Instead, we feel hollow. Like there will be another attempt to play this scene out in another 30 years or so.
I recently re-watched to original film a few weeks before this one was released to little fanfare. My memories of the film loomed larger, perhaps due to my age when I saw it. I was only 11, but it had a profound effect on my wish to feel armed and protected. I wasn’t necessarily the kind of kid to fall for anything, either. I knew just a couple of years later that Goonies was a pile of crap. It was the cold war then. We knew the Russians were the enemy then, even if they sent El Salvadorans to do their dirty work. Nowadays, with the procession of crooks in and out of Congress and the White House, the feeling of patriotism is not as blind. Or maybe I am just getting old.
(**1/2 out of *****)