After three years — thanks to financial troubles of MGM — of floundering around in distribution limbo, the remake of 1984’s Red Dawn is finally hitting cinemas, replacing a Soviet invasion in Colorado with a North Korean one in Spokane (originally, the bad guys were Chinese, until someone realized exactly how many potential movie-goers live in a country of a billion people). How does it fare? Well, instead of a heavy dose of ‘80s cheese and a credulity-stretching plot, we get a lot of 2012 cheese, a credulity-stretching plot and a bigger budget (and it’s every bit as wasteful and extraneous as it sounds).
Instead of creating an alternate history to set up its communist invasion in smalltown America plotline — along with a group of teens called “The Wolverines” who fight a guerilla war against them — this Red Dawn opens with a montage of news footage. Mentioning the ailing economy here and in Greece — and clips of an especially dour President Obama — and violence around the world, the movie strives for a sort of realism and urgency that instead reeks of paranoia and fear-mongering. The bare minimum effort is put into building the world of the film, as the universe the film attempts to create is low on intricacies — something that infests the entirety of the plot. Everything is kept vague, and no one’s paying attention to the details. Consequently, Red Dawn makes little sense even after the most rudimentary of inspections, as the finer points like why no one can catch these noisy, obvious kids (let alone why this invasion is happening to begin with) are quickly lost. Tact and nuance are not Red Dawn’s strengths, and it’s hoping the explosions are enough to distract you from this.
Red Dawn wants to entertain and embolden in all its flag-waving patriotism, but instead comes across as a half-assed civics lesson at best. At worst, the film is yet another meatheaded actioner, but with the added benefit of a needless glorification of war. Red Dawn attempts to point out how difficult it is for these everyday affluent suburban teens who must learn to kill and are forced to live in caves with no modern conveniences. But these are all horrors of war of the PG-13 variety, and it’s not long until everyone’s hooting and hollering from the rooftops as they blow up and shoot up half of Spokane, all filmed in the glories of shaky-cam incoherence (on that note, you’d think first time director Dan Bradley would know better since he spent his career as a stunt coordinator). In no time at all, our ragtag group of paper thin characters are shouting, speechifying and being oh so solemn with the best of cinema’s most clichéd war flicks. It’s the type of movie I might find dangerous or poisonous in its xenophobic, jingoistic worldview if it weren’t so dumb to begin with. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense war violence and action, and for language.
Playing at Carmike 10, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande