I have no problem saying I was a big fan of 1984’s Red Dawn. And whether it’s the nostalgia, the good action, the interesting storyline, the movie still holds up for me today. Now I grant you the politics are outdated and the cheese may not appeal to newer audiences as it does for many of us who grew up during those days. But I still find it to be a rousing good time despite its occasional silliness. That appreciation for the original film combined with what I saw from the first trailers had me concerned about the 2012 remake. Hollywood doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to remakes and let me just say that this new Red Dawn will do nothing to change that.
Now if you’re unfamiliar with the original story that’s ok. The new version only incorporates the general idea and a few of the names. Most everything else is new but certainly not better. The film starts by introducing Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth), a Marine on leave in his hometown of Spokane Washington. We also meet his brother Matt (Josh Peck), a high school football quarterback who doesn’t have the best relationship with his older brother. The movie also chunks in a few more introductions including Matt’s girlfriend Erica (Isabel Lucas), one of Jed’s old schoolmates Toni (Adrianne Palicki), and the boys’ father Tom Eckert (Brett Cullen). All are awakened one morning by an all out military assault on their town. Now don’t even try to use your brain to figure out how the enemy got that many planes, ground forces, and Humvees in the area undetected. The explaination is laughable. In fact, it’s best just to turn your brain off at the opening scene. I mean it seems like the filmmakers certainly did when they were putting together this crappy concoction of errors.
This Red Dawn attempts to modernize the politics and the characters while telling the same basic story. Instead of Cuba and Russia from the 1984 film, this time North Korea is the occupying force that attacks the United States with a little help from Russia although how they’re associated is never adequately explained. In fact all we get is news footage during the opening credits which supposedly sets the deteriorating political climate of the world. Aside from that, the invading army is nothing more than a nameless, faceless force showing nothing in terms of motivation or incentive. They just supply our group of young heroes with people to kill. Their arrival causes chaos in the city but Jed, Matt and a few of their friends are able to escape up into the mountains. From there they form into a group of rebels that wages guerrilla war against their occupiers.
I know this sounds silly but the original movie actually did this quite well. It took a small group of scared young people, fleshed them out, and over several seasons turned them into pesky guerrilla fighters mainly focused on survival. This film takes an uninteresting group with practically no personality, zips them into combat, and soon has them carrying out complex missions in the middle of occupied Spokane. No training and very little trial and error. And in this film the North Korean army has to be the worst occupying force ever in the history of cinema. Jed and company are able to waltz right into town at their leisure, detonate C4 explosives wherever the wish, and walk right out of town with their AK47’s tucked under their jackets. And this is just for starters. Throughout the movie you’ll find huge gaps in logic, glaring plot holes, and numerous moments where all you can do is bury your face in your hands.
If I wasted time singling out every stupid moment and ridiculous inconsistency this review would go on forever. Instead let’s just give discredit where discredit is due. Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore’s script is bad. NOTHING that they’ve added, from the new character twists to the annoying profanity, is an improvement or even on par with the original Red Dawn. It’s one of the most amateurish and laughably bad scripts you’ll find and that’s unforgivable considering it’s a remake of a movie that I felt was well written and highly entertaining. This mess is anything but that.
And then there’s the dialogue and the performances. I was astonished at some of the ridiculous lines crossing the lips of the actors in this movie. Several times I just sat there with my jaw dropped trying to figure out how some of these scenes could have made the final cut. Whether it’s the pseudo-toughness of the kids or the rare moments where they’re trying to show emotion, the film is littered with corny and brainless dialogue. The most laughably bad scenes come with the arrival of Jeffrey Dean Morgan and his two fellow Marines. Their embarrassing attempts at macho military talk left me speechless, particularly Matt Gerald. I swear he may have given one of the worst and most cringe-inducing performances I’ve ever seen. You’ll literally root for his character to be killed just to ease the assault on your ears.
Ok, enough of this. I could say so much more about this movie but I’m already sick of talking about it. In summary, Red Dawn is an unmitigated disaster from start to finish. About the only positives I can come up with are the explosions look good and Chris Hemsworth is decent. But even he is eventually buried by his poorly written character and the shallowness of his lines. Red Dawn ends up being another incompetent remake that shouldn’t even exist. It has virtually nothing in common with the original and it shreds everything that the first film did so well. I can’t see anyone who even slightly appreciated the 1984 film to find anything worthwhile in this remake. But then again I can’t see anyone who appreciates good movies to find anything worthwhile either. It’s that bad!
VERDICT – 1 STAR
For a much better version, please check out my review of the original Red Dawn (1984) .