Ill-Conceived Red Dawn a Pointless Remake
On the eastern side of Washington State just under 300 miles from Seattle, the city of Spokane has fallen to North Korean invaders. They have taken over, boxing in the residents and declaring themselves in complete control. A group of youngsters, including Marine Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth), his hotheaded younger brother Matt (Josh Peck) and his high school classmates Robert (Josh Hutcherson), Daryl (Connor Cruise), and Danny (Edwin Hodge), escape into the wilderness only to see their families ripped apart and their homes destroyed.
They are later joined by Toni (Adrianne Palicki), who has a thing for Jed, and Matt’s cheerleader girlfriend Erica (Isabel Lucas). Dubbing themselves “Wolverines” (their high school mascot), they launch a guerilla-style offensive against their invaders, making a dent in the North Korean resolve. When a trio of U.S. troops, led by the steely Col. Andy Tanner (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), become a part of their team, that’s when the fun really starts. He tasks the Wolverines with a do-or-die mission to steal a mysterious black box that could change the tide of the war and bring freedom back to, not just the citizens of Spokane, but all currently occupied American cities up and down the west coast.
There is no reason for Red Dawn to exist. A remake of the cult 1984 favorite directed by John Milius and starring the then somewhat unknown Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, and Jennifer Grey, as well as veteran character actors Harry Dean Stanton, Powers Boothe, and Ben Johnson, this new version doesn’t have a single original idea or any clue as to what to do with any of the ones it’s stolen from other films. Directed by relative newcomer Dan Bradley (he ran the second unit on Quantum of Solace) and scripted by Carl Ellsworth (Disturbia) and Jeremy Passmore (Special), this thing is a mess, and sitting through it was a colossal waste of time.
Am I being too harsh? Not in my opinion. While the action sequences are admittedly competent, the reasons fueling the carnage are as superficial as they are nonsensical. Milius’ original might not be great, and it might even be unintentionally hilarious at times, but it did have the strength of its own heavy-handed jingoistic convictions. The same cannot be said about this 25-years-in-the-making reboot (the remake was shot in 2009). It has no convictions to remain true to. Heck, it almost feels as if the entire creative team is making it all up as they go along.
There is nothing here that made me want to care for this group of Wolverines or be at all concerned by their plight. Character development is strictly superficial in nature and in execution. Each character talks in dopey platitudes. Nothing feels real. There is nothing about any of this that feels honest, and the only thing that’s surprising is how unsurprising everything that happens turns out to be.
With one major exception, I guess the actors do give it their best shot, and I can’t fault them for how inept all of this proves to be. Hemsworth can do this sort of thing in his sleep, while Morgan has made an entire career out of eschewing big-time macho stoicism. Hutcherson probably has the film’s brightest moments, his reaction shots as he grows from tech geek to machine gun-toting superhero moderately endearing.
The exception is Peck. So good in The Wackness, he is phenomenally miscast as Matt. He weighs the proceedings down, his pouty one-dimensional petulance a constant annoyance that had me silently hoping some North Korean bullet would put him out of my misery.
But the blame for this misfire lands at the feet of Bradley and the screenwriters. They don’t attempt to resolve anything and they never present a plausible rationale for all the carnage. It’s almost as if none of the creative team cares if their characters resonate longer than the two seconds it takes for them to be introduced. This Red Dawn, shot nowhere near the real Spokane, WA, my hometown, I might add, doesn’t realistically depict a single solitary thing. It’s a terrible remake, and that’s all there is to say.
Film Rating: 1 (out of 4)