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Red Dawn (2012)

May 1, 2013

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written by: Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore (from a story by Kevin Reynolds and John Milius) 

produced by: Beau Flynn, Vince Newman and Tripp Vinson

directed by: Dan Bradley

rating: PG-13 (for sequences of intense war violence and action, and for language) 

runtime: 93 min. 

U.S. release date: November 21, 2012

DVD/Blu-ray release date: March 5, 2013

 

Unnecessary Remake No. 1,839, and away we go. Released in 1984, “Red Dawn” is a classic flick that is a pretty good example of what a really good and oh so bad 1980s movie can be. So 28 years later, enough time has passed. Right? Let’s remake it for no apparent reason other than money!!! Brace yourself for 2012’s painfully bad “Red Dawn”.

The world, she is a-changing as a heavily militarized North Korea and Russia begin to take advantage of a struggling economy in Asia, Europe and eventually across the world. American troops are being deployed internationally, leaving the states vulnerable to attack. In Spokane, U.S. Army soldier Jed Eckert (a pre-“ThorChris Hemsworth) is home on leave visiting his family when the U.S. is actually attacked and invaded by North Korean forces. As parachutes rain down and planes unleash bomb after bomb, Jed manages to escape into the mountains with his younger brother, Matt (Josh Peck,”Ice Age: Continental Drift), and a small group of teenagers. At first, Jed’s crew is content to just hide in the mountains and survive, but the North Koreans come looking for them, including killing Jed and Matt’s father (Brett Cullen) right in front of them. Using his military training, Jed teaches them how to shoot, fight and kill (DRAMA!), taking the attack to the North Koreans. America! Wolverines!

 

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This movie was doomed a bit from the start. It was actually filmed in 2009 and originally scheduled to be released in 2010. Studio problems and backing wreaked havoc, and ta-da! It was released in November 2012 to awful reviews and a pretty lukewarm response at the box office. The biggest issue is that there’s absolutely no point to the movie in the least. The 1984 original was timely (if cheesy), dealing with very current issues at the end of the Cold War. A Russian invasion of the states? Far-fetched, sure, but still creepy. Well now we’re having issues with North Koreans (originally written in the script as the Chinese, dropped so it could be released in China. Yeah money!) so they invade? If you’re going to do a remake, pick a lousy movie that needs to be remade. If you’re just doing it for the sake of doing it ($), then at least throw something new at us! Try a tweak here, a twist there. Nice work director Dan Bradley.

The 2012 remake starts off interestingly enough. The invasion scene is pretty cool, unsettling and exciting as paratroopers descend from the sky on a lazy Saturday morning. Jed and Matt head for the hills amid chaos in Spokane, gunshots and explosions all around them. From there, it degenerates into one cliched, overdone scene after another. All characterization has been stripped away — making the original look like a masterpiece in character study — to the point where Jed’s crew of spunky resistance fighters are a faceless, nameless sea of teenage mediocrity. More than that, it’s just stupid. How is an entire North Korean army not able to find a group of teenagers hiding in the mountains? Do they not have technology available to them? How do the Wolverines manage to sneak in and out of heavily guarded Spokane pretty much at will.

 

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I’ll get the minor positives out of the way here. Not yet a star when the movie was made in 2010, Hemsworth is a solid lead. The script does him no favors, but he’s very watchable, making the most of his poorly written part that requires him to be gruff and squint. In a too little, too late part, Jeffrey Dean Morgan (“The Losers“) plays Sgt. Andrew Tanner, a Marine sent to work with the Wolverines and help take down a North Korean secret weapon. It’s a wasted part — around 10-15 minutes actually on-screen — but a nice tweak on the Powers Boothe part in the original Red Dawn. Will Yun Lee (“Total Recall“) plays Captain Cho, the North Korean district commander who says six words and glares at Hemsworth’s Jed from afar with a menacing look. No background (or dialogue for that matter) or humanization, just foreboding looks.

One part almost single-handedly ruins the movie, and that honor goes to Peck as Matt Eckert. A former Nickelodeon star on Drake and Josh. All grown up and thinned out, Peck delivers a truly awful performance. Something seems to be going on with his eyes that ends up being distracting in a big way. Mostly though, he smiles awkwardly, mumbles a lot, growls in a scratchy voice when he’s loud enough to understand and pouts like an 8-year old. Oh, and as for the iconic ‘Wolverines!’ cry, it’s never explained, just screamed. It’s the high school mascot, but they just assume we know that having seen the original. The other Wolverines include Josh Hutcherson (“The Hunger Games“) so full of hate – kinda – because his parents are dead, Hemsworth love interest Adrianne Palicki (“G.I. Joe: Retaliation“) Isabel Lucas as Matt’s girlfriend, Connor Cruise as the mayor’s son (and son of Tom), Edwin Hodge as Matt’s black friend, and Alyssa Diaz and Julian Alcaraz as out of town teenagers.

I figured if nothing else the action would be good here, and it ain’t bad to be fair. It ain’t good though either. While exciting, much of it is edited so quickly and features the handheld running camera routine that cripples just about any action movie ever. With a movie that’s just 93 minutes long, everything is stripped down to a bare minimum. Background, characters, actual human interaction, it all gets tossed out the window. This was an awful movie. Go back to the original. Patrick Swayze is cooler than ever.

 

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RATING: *

 

 

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