Red Dawn Review: How Thor and Peeta Saved America From the Commies in the Least Necessary and Most Hilariously Inept Remake Ever

By TK | Film Reviews | November 26, 2012 | Comments ()


Red-Dawn-2012-Chris-Hemsworth-Jeffery-Dean-Morgan.jpeg

There are several good reasons not to reboot 1984's jingoistic Cold War paean, Red Dawn, not the least of which is this: It's not even remotely topical anymore, given the dissipation of the threat of Communism. The original's particular brand of flag-waving, America Fuck Yeah! mouth-breathing goofiness is a part of an era gone by, rightfully left behind in favor of films with less obvious villains and actual, you know, plots. Then again, we're also seeing the inexplicable and geriatrically awkward resurgence of Stallone and Schwarzenegger, so what the hell do I know?

I know this: Red Dawn is dumb. It's fifteen pounds of stupid crammed into a five pound bag with a hole in the bottom. Left on the shelf for two years due to MGM's financial woes and eventually released through another studio, it's a film that hews so closely to the original that, ambiguous villain ethnicities aside, there's very little to separate it other than hairstyles. That said, there was at least a doddering charm to the original, a film that you sort of wanted to pat on the head as you would a toddler who made it through the day without shitting itself. There's little of that in the 2012 project, a film that takes itself dreadfully seriously yet is simultaneously laughably inept.

The story, as mentioned, is essentially the same. The United States is invaded by the Commies, only this time it's North Korea (swapped in during post-production when the studio decided not to piss off China), and a small, ragtag group of high school students get their guerrilla warfare on in an effort to throw a little chaos into the works and try to save America -- or at least, Spokane. After a cobbled-together, artless and vaguely nauseating opening credit sequence that will likely result in mass seizures where we learn about how the unchecked rise of North Korea and the destabilization of Western... Jesus, it so doesn't matter. All you need to know is that there are Asians, and they are capital-B Bad.

Anyway, the film focuses on a Friday Night Lights-esque community, where everyone loves football and beer and family, and thankfully, Marine Corps badass Jed (Chris Hemsworth) is back in town for shore leave or something. When the paratroopers start falling and the fighter jets zing around, he grabs his dopey-ass hero quarterback brother Matt (Josh Peck), and a bunch of other high schoolers, and leads them to a nearby cabin, eventually formulating a plan to fight back. That's really all there is to it, and it's simply not enough. The film's story is anemic at best, with lifeless, robotic villains who are so mindlessly grim and uninteresting that one can't even really drum up any antipathy towards them. They're video game shock troop drones, bereft of personality, and because of that, it's equally hard to really root for the heroes of the story.

Of course, that's not helped by the heroes themselves, who are spectacularly bland. Carefully and deliberately diverse (there's two Latinos! And two African Americans!), what they gain in multiculturalism they lose in absolutely dreadful acting. Credit is backhandedly due to Hemsworth and Adrianne Palicki's Toni for attempting to make the best out of the hideously derivative dialogue that they're given -- they're the least lifeless of the bunch. Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games' Peeta) is the next rung down, acting-wise, as the geeky cowardly lion of the group (guess who saves the day later!), and after that it's a bucket of crap outfitted by Abercrombie & Fitch, then rolled down a hill. Worst of all is the pairing of Peck's Matt and his adoring girlfriend Erica (Isabel Lucas), a brutally and unrelentingly bland couple that are so wooden as to make mannequins seem lively. Peck's mopey face is really only capable of two expressions, and there's a constipated discomfort to both of them. Yet he's downright Shakespearean when compared to Lucas, who is wisely given few lines and asked to do little more than to vacuously imitate concern (scrunchy face!) and to happily hug people (less scrunchy face!). Oh, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan shows up later to be Jeffrey Dean Morgan and shoot some people.

Despite the awful characters, stilted and cliched dialogue (lines like "you're gonna get us all killed!" and "I'm gonna stay and fight!" are spoken every other minute), and atrocious writing, the actions sequences actually aren't half-bad. There's a refreshing lack of CGI and a certain breathless pacing to it that keeps the film from staggering during its breakneck 90 minutes. The action is the only thing that makes the film tolerable, yet there's not enough excitement to actually warrant recommending it. The caveat is that someone desperately needs to buy director Dan Bradley a steadicam, because the film has moments of such dizzying, hectic chaos that you literally cannot tell what is happening. I don't say that as praise, either. Those moments are cheap and amateurish and actually serve to remove the viewer from the only damn parts of the film that are even remotely enjoyable.

Surprisingly absent from the film is the rah-rah, obnoxiously pugnacious patriotism that was the inevitable overtone of its predecessor. The film instead focuses on simple folk defending their homes, rather than saving the country and America kicking ass. The downside is that it spends a great deal of time demonizing its aggressors, which is made weirder by the knowledge that in its original incarnation, they were an entirely different group of countrymen. This is further confused by the fact that the evil leader of the invaders is played by Will Yun Lee, a Korean-American actor who was therefore originally asked to play a Chinese bad guy, and then changed in post-production to play a North Korean one. That shit is just flat-out confusing. I can't even tell if I'm supposed to be offended by it.

I am offended by the overall terribleness of the film, from its weak characters to its oversimplified plotting to its politically precarious and lazy storyline. The heroes are dull and uninspiring, a carefully selected group with the white guys prominent as the leaders, and minorities serving as emotional and literal cannon fodder (SPOILER ALERT: every minority good guy save one dies). The villains are equally devoid of interest, soulless automatons who periodically yell and all have contracted a nasty case of Stormtrooper Syndrome (while the group of high schoolers are all crack shots). The action works well enough, when it isn't drowning in its own apoplectic dizziness. Yet what sticks with you the most is that Red Dawn is totally unnecessary. It's stupid, cliched, rife with racially questionable writing, poorly acted and clumsily directed, a film that should never have left the shelf it was dumped on two years ago.



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • Devin McMusters

    The guy that was a ghost from Grey's Anatomy is in it? Nuff said. Gotta suck.

  • Good. I'm glad the piece of shit turned out to be a piece of shit.
    Can someone start giving Jeffrey Dean Morgan the roles in Good Films that he deserves, please? It's not enough for me that he turns up periodically in dungheaps like this. I know he'll never get a vehicle, but maybe a nice supporting role on which he could rest his huge, Javier Bardem-like head. That'd do. Cheers.

  • Hey, don't blame Thor! He wasn't even Thor yet.

    But let's get down to what really matters: Is there shirtlessness or not? This will make the difference between 'maybe watching it on Netflix' and 'you couldn't pay me enough. OK maybe $2 because it's Hemsworth.'

  • Buck Forty

    The threat is real and shouldn't be mocked. It is well known amongst the vigilant (yet covered up by the MSM) that North Korea has the crackiest crack team of paratroopers and their fighter jets run rings around ours (or whatever the aviation equivalent of ring running is). They could totally invade and take over the US.

  • KateNonymous

    "to pat on the head as you would a toddler who made it through the day without shitting itself."

    Clearly written by someone who does not have a toddler, because what you are describing here is one of the most amazing days ever, and based on the trailers alone, this film cannot compare.

  • Bodhi

    Isn't Tom Cruise's son in this too?

  • the_wakeful

    As a Colorado native, the worst part of this reboot isn't the terrible acting, writing, or cinematography. It's that they moved the setting from Colorado to Washington. You bastards!

  • Fredo

    As another review pointed out, the original sort of worked because there was the constant fear of WW3 springing up between America and the USSR at any moment. That doesn't exist anymore. In fact, there isn't any other single nation (the Chinese included) that could get us today to generate the same amount of irrational fear. It's why we're more afraid of the zombie apocalypse than the Big Red Machine (Johnny Bench excluded).

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    I guess this is what we can expect to fill the void left by the sparkle vampires.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Coincidentally, I have the original on my DVD shelf. Never hit the $5 bin at Walmart when you're stoned kids.

  • AngelenoEwok

    I AM SHOCKED! SHOCKED! That reefer smoking is going on here!

  • lowercase_ryan

    WAS going on here. These days I just sip my tea and clutch my pearls.

  • It's 15 pounds on Hemsworth's face, I can tell you that. It's blatantly obvious that this was done years prior to him landing (or at least grooming for) Thor. This is his House at the End of the Street.

  • lowercase_ryan

    "Bucket of crap outfitted by Abercrombie and Fitch."

    You make my heart sing.

  • BlackRabbit

    What would their couple name be? Thorpeeta? That sounds dirtier than most of them. Helmspeck? Peckworth?

  • Zirza

    This is the sort of movie that I'll salvage from the three-buck bargain bin two years from now and watch it with the sound off while liberally partaking of some vodka and just lust over Chris Hemsworth and his pecs.

    The future is bleak, people.

  • TK

    WARNING: Hemsworth never takes his shirt off.

  • These people clearly have no business being in the film-making business.

  • GODDAMMIT

  • gp

    GOD DAMN IT.

  • ....and you took the words right out of my mouth. Damn it to hell.

  • Zirza

    Two-buck bargain bin, then. The way the Euro is going that amounts to about $0.025 in two years.

  • bleujayone

    Out of curiosity, was anyone in this ragtag band of diversity rainbow freedom fighters...Asian? Or would that be too confusing to follow that people with the same racial features might be shooting at each other?

  • The Other Agent Johnson

    There's eventually a vaguely Asian US Marine that they run into. He has about two minutes of screen time and speaks a total of three sentences.

  • TherecanbeonlyoneAdmin

    Does he at least speak with an Asian accent? I'm just concerned that the audience will get confused about who's who. Besides, it's common knowledge that all Asians speak with an accent.

  • there is a bit where he distracts the commanding officer by speaking Korean over the radio...

  • Blake

    Plus +1000. My thoughts exactly. I also question the strategic importance of Spokane, Washington...

  • 724wd

    well, there is fairchild air force base...

    as someone living in spokane, it seems like bad form to not film anything here. we're obviously going to know it's not the right locale.

  • TK

    Yeah, no joke. I've never even been to Spokane and I was like, dude, that's not even Washington.

  • idiosynchronic

    <jjabrams>Iowa has PITS, HUGE MOTHERFUCKING KILOMETERS DEEP PITS! Right near the starship construction docks. And corn fields. lots of corn</jjabrams>

  • Blake

    Totally forgot about that, thanks 724.

  • Carrie/Teabelly

    Oh, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan shows up later to be Jeffrey Dean Morgan and shoot some people.

    Sold!

  • ed newman

    "he grabs his dopey-ass hero quarterback brother Matt (Josh Peck),"

    Since there is NO way in hell I am ever going to watch this nonsense, please tell me whether Peck can even remotely be taken seriously as a hero QB. Even when he slimmed down on that Nick show, he seemed completely awkward and in no way athletic.

  • That would be no. I didn't even know he was from a Nick show and didn't buy him as a high school quarterback hero. TK's review is pretty much spot on.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    There's an Australian version of this movie that was so, SO bad. They were invaded by Asians as well, the world's latest bogeymen.

  • kittennz

    Man I love those Australian 'Tomorrow when the war began' book series by John Marsden so so much. Just incredible.

  • Tomorrow, When the War Began. I got sucked into that mess on Netflix because Phoebe Tonkin was listed in the credits. The credits actually attribute it to a book, but the whole time all I could think was "Hey! It's Australian Red Dawn!"

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