War is kid stuff in ‘Red Dawn’ remake
Updated: November 21, 2012 11:06AM
If you can get over the fact that it’s entirely preposterous and you happen to be in desperate need of a macho fantasy fix, “Red Dawn” might not be a complete drag to sit through.
Mostly, though, it’s neatly summed up by one of the teenage commandos fighting a guerilla war against an invading army: “Dude, we’re living ‘Call of Duty,’ and it sucks.”
The original “Red Dawn,” co-written and directed by ultra-macho John Milius in 1984, capitalized on Cold War anxieties well-enough to make its tale of a band of teenage resistance fighters taking on invading Russians a sizable hit despite its far-fetched premise. Times have changed, though, and the idea of a full-scale invasion by a foreign power seems less of a nail-biting concern than the threat of terrorist
attacks — or even the possibility that the country could fall off the fiscal cliff in the next few weeks.
That’s the first problem with this weak remake. The second is that the new “Red Dawn” was shot in 2009 with China replacing the U.S.S.R as the invading bad guys. However, when MGM went bankrupt and left the film without a distributor, its producers opted to make it more palatable by altering the film to erase the Chinese and replace them with an invading North Korean army.
“The North Koreans? That makes no sense,” says one of the characters in one of the re-shot scenes. Ummm, no, especially after that country’s recent failure to successfully launch a long-range missile — though perhaps that explains why they decided to take us on the old-fashioned way.
Setting aside such quibbles, though, it must be said that when the action kicks in quickly after the opening credits with shots of enemy aircraft flying over Spokane, Wash. and swarms of armed paratroopers descending on the sleepy town, the effect is momentarily galvanizing. Unfortunately, that’s the only passage in the film with any real emotional impact.
As the town is being captured, Iraq combat vet Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth before hitting it big with “Thor”) assembles a crew of high school football players, cheerleaders and assorted nerds and takes them into the woods, where he will quickly transform them into a crack commando squad. Far too quickly. All that’s required, it seems, is a brief training montage where he runs them through boot camp in about five seconds. Then they’re ready to kick North Korean bootay.
If you can get past that foolishness, most of the film’s numerous action sequences work reasonably well (despite a confusing over-abundance of jittery hand-held camera footage) thanks to debut director Dan Bradley’s long career as a stuntman and stunt coordinator. The same can’t be said for the dramatic filler, however, contriving issues such as tension between Jed and his younger brother Matt (Josh Peck), who resists big bro’s authority, puts the rest of the group at risk, has a lot of growing up to do, etc., etc.
You might think a situation like the one these kids find themselves in might generate a few legitimate dramatic concerns. A little fear, perhaps? A bit of uncertainty about going into combat when the closest they’ve come to real-live warfare is bickering around the family dinner table?
Apparently not. After all, they’ve all played the video games, right? War is fun. All you have to do is point and shoot — and never mind the body count.