In a heated moment during Dan Bradley’s remake “Red Dawn,” one of the characters compares a situation to “a shit sandwich without the bread,” which is actually an accurate analogy for the entire film. The action scenes and special effects in the movie are really just loose crap without plot or character development to hold them together.
For those unfamiliar with the 1980s film this one is copying, “Red Dawn” is about a group of high school kids whose small town in Colorado is invaded by Soviet troops as part of a large scale Communist operation to take over the entire United States. The teenagers train to become soldiers, and form a militia unit they dub “The Wolverines” after their high school football team. They hide out in the woods, engaging in guerilla warfare to help take back their country. This version just swaps Colorado for Washington and the Russians with the Chinese…*cough*…North Koreans.
What’s hilarious about this remake is that it was actually shot back in 2009 with the Chinese as the villains, but the bankruptcy of MGM caused the film to sit on shelves. By the time financial woes were settled though, studio execs realized that China has become too powerful of a movie audience to alienate, so the invaders were poorly changed to North Koreans in post-production. This may account for some of the story and the dialogue’s vagueness (no character ever says the invading country’s name).
The good news is that “Red Dawn” wastes very little time getting to the excitement. After a fast-paced collection of real and fake news footage about North Korea’s aggressive foreign policies, it’s maybe 10-15 minutes into the movie when the bombs start dropping and the North Koreans are invading. During the abundant explosions and gunfights, first-time director Dan Bradley proves to be adequate in handling action sequences thanks to his background in stunts.
However the bad news about “Red Dawn” is that there is very little character or plot development. You barely get to know any of the characters, let alone have a reason to care about them, especially the two main ones played by a pre- “Thor” Chris Hemsworth and Josh Peck. Hemsworth’s Jed is the only person who gets depth, as a Marine who served tours over in Afghanistan. However you still have to infer a lot about him based on his background and his lines.
As the eldest of the group, Jed becomes the obvious father figure, training everyone how to be soldiers. What’s completely outrageous though is the teens go from snot nosed kids into hardened warriors over the course of a single montage with voiceover. Other important plot elements are given equally little attention or explanations, like why the North Koreans even want to control the U.S. and how they caught us with our pants down. You also discover that certain people are cooperating with the enemy without any reason why. You just get stupid lines like “Collaborators, it was bound to happen.”
Probably the most obnoxious thing in “Red Dawn,” is its use of macho speeches like you’d hear in “Starship Troopers.” People keep saying the same stuff over and over again, not necessarily because it’s badass, but mostly since it seems like the writers were lazy. Plus someone needs to tell them that there are more words in the English language than “hard,” to describe tough situations. Invest in a thesaurus people.
Even though I’ve never seen the original “Red Dawn” I’m willing to bet it’s better than the remake. Don’t waste your time on this pile of dung.
My Grade: D