The 2012 remake of Red Dawn is not the worst movie of the year, but it has little going for it. Directed by veteran stunt coordinator Dan Bradley (Spider-Man 2, The Bourne Legacy), this action movie stars a bevy of young actors, angry Chinese people disguised as North Koreans, and a lot of action-packed sequences.
This film is a remake of the 1984 Red Dawn, which starred Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen as two teenagers who were part of a group of high-schoolers that bound together to fight against a foreign military that invaded their hometown. In similar fashion, Bradley’s version follows the story of a group of teenagers who survive a massive foreign invasion, and escape into the woods where they train to fight the enemy.
Before we discuss who the bad guy is (this time around), let’s talk about the impressive cast. Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth stars as the brave Jed Eckert, the leader of the underdog guerrilla group known as The Wolverines. Hunger Games‘ star Josh Hutcherson also plays a part, and he’s joined by Josh Peck (The Wackness), Adrianne Palicki (Friday Night Lights) and Isabel Lucas (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen). If you’re wondering how Hemsworth and Hutcherson, two of today’s hottest young actors, ended up in this remake, here’s why – the film was shot three years ago (before they broke out into the mainstream) and kept on the shelf due to some of the MGM’s financial woes that were going on at the time. Now, the film is finally in theaters.
The biggest difference between the two films is that in the original, the bad guys were Russian; now they’re North Korean. And that’s where the new version fails to make an impact.
Look, the idea that a group of teenagers try, or even think they can intimidate and defeat a foreign military that was ballsy enough to invade a country like the United States is silly, but at least the first film got the bad guys right. Back when the original film was released, there was palpable fear that the Russians could attack the United States. The Soviet Union posed a real threat to the States. But North Korea? Not so much.
And here’s another thing, the villains weren’t always North Korean. The film originally had the Chinese as the bad guys, but after the film was made, the studio executives decided to trade them in. They didn’t want to hurt ticket sales in that market, so the filmmakers digitally turned the Chinese into North Koreans.
We get that Red Dawn is, first and foremost, an action movie. A popcorn movie. The filmmakers aren’t trying to make a political statement, obviously, but it’s just hard to respect a film that switched its bad guy in order to keep people from getting pissed off.
But it’s not all bad. Mr. Bradley delivers the best he can with what he was given. His action sequences are exciting and entertaining. He chose to use a documentary-like style, and that really works during the training scenes in the woods and battle scenes in the town.
Despite this being Bradley’s first feature, he knows how to get the most out of his actors. There’s some real moments in the film, mainly between Hemsworth and Peck who play siblings. The two spend most of the film butting heads, but they have good chemistry and their brotherly relationship is believable.
In the end, there’s something about Red Dawn that makes it enjoyable. Maybe it’s the idea that a group of kids truly believe they can take their country back. Or maybe it’s all this recent election stuff that’s making me feel a little more patriotic.