Director: Dan Bradley
Writers: Carl Ellsworth, Jeremy Passmore
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki
Release date: September 27th, 2012
Running time: 93 minutes
Best part: Chris Hemsworth.
Worst part: Cinema’s worst product placement.
Following the end of the Cold War, many Americans became enthralled by the exploitative yet paranoia inducing thrills of the 1984 cult classic Red Dawn. Many kids dreamed of one day facing a global threat with their buddies in their very own backyard. This imaginative idea has been brought to life yet again, in the form of a fresh faced remake quickly forced into hibernation by distribution company Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Red Dawn however doesn’t even belong on anyone’s list of guilty pleasures, sadly becoming yet another typical and unnecessary Hollywood remake.
After a six year tour of duty in Iraq, Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth) is an all around nice guy returning to his home in Spokane, Washington. He quickly attracts the attention of the locals, his feisty brother Matt (Josh Peck), his father Tom (Brett Cullen) and attractive childhood friend Toni (Adrianne Palicki). Barely can he settle back into his father’s couch when the threat of war comes back to haunt him, this time in the form of invading North Korean/Russian forces. Attaining a rag-tag group of high-schoolers of all divisions, the Eckerts must soon find a way out of their new situation with the help of Jed’s military training. Having lost their homes, lives and loved ones, the young renegade force known as the ‘Wolverines’ must stop this ominous foreign threat from spreading across the United States of America.
This jingoistic and forgettable remake of the hauntingly relevant original falters despite its somewhat promising start. Following a harrowing montage of news footage linking the 2008 Global Financial Crisis to the onset of nuclear war, Red Dawn’s fantastical account of an invasion of US democracy stretches any sense of credibility beyond a simplistic Call of Duty-like scenario. What made the original such a patriotic yet vital action flick was the link to Cold War paranoia surrounding its initial release. Upon this realisation, creating a North Korean (formerly Chinese) enemy worthy of the Soviet Union stretches plausibility. What is left is just a forgettable action flick bordering on xenophobia. This remake was finished in 2008, put on hold after MGM was hit by the recession. It’s easy to see why it was left to a release date four years later, becoming a film without a sense of place in our current political climate. The North Korean threat is a largely over-the-top band of thugs, little more than target practice for the Wolverines.
Director Dan Bradley has worked as stunt coordinator and/or second unit director on big budget action films such as The Bourne Ultimatum, Swordfish and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. His penchant for expansive action set-pieces pays off in the film’s many shoot-outs and chases, yet fails to create a sense of either atmosphere or brutality for this dull narrative. Despite the tight pacing and high level of explosions, Bradley’s work on Paul Greengrass’ Bourne films has led to many tense scenes ruined by shaking cameras and quick cuts. This ultra-modern remake fails to learn from the original’s noticeable flaws. This contrived and silly story creates an emotionally manipulative yet undercooked survival tale of US citizens fighting oppression. The story is set to one training and battle montage after another, creating a breezy yet unrefined documentation of this peculiar invasion. Trying unrelentingly to achieve impact, Red Dawn‘s inappropriate score its only one step away from being as emotionally manipulative as the world’s biggest onion. The characters are awkwardly placed into certain types. High school and military politics are depicted as comparable in this film, conveniently comprising the jocks, rebels, nerds and hotties as the pecking order of this unit. Pretty predictable stuff here.
“Marines don’t die, they go to hell and regroup.” (Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth), Red Dawn).
Australia’s 2010 Red Dawn-like action flick Tomorrow, When the War Began is a far greater re-iteration this implausible situation. Any chance at developing character or resonance falls flat with every cheesy one liner and underwhelming speech, creating an inexplicably cloying experience to endure. This earnest retelling provides a humourless and bland romp, with comedic moments falling flat and ridiculous product placement achieving only unintentional laughs. Despite becoming little more than uninteresting enemies for the North Korean troops, the underused cast is full of recognisable faces. The original’s fun vibe was created partly through its charismatic young cast including Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Grey. The chemistry between the original cast is lost in the remake, as the new group fails to create a believable or likeable fighting force. Chris Hemsworth (achieving major success with Thor and The Avengers) is a charismatic screen presence as the hapless leader. Josh Peck however becomes a bumbling and irritating soldier playing by his own rules. Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games) is easily replaceable, as is the rest of this underwhelming group of small soldiers.
Despite Bradley and the cast’s enthusiasm, their Red Dawn remake has been through hell and back itself. Given the resources on offer, this action-adventure could have been something for new generations to cling onto. Unfortunately, it has arrived several years too late.