Review: RED DAWN

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)

2012 has been a great year for movies and thankfully, producers have only released two unnecessary remakes.  The first, Total Recall, brought little inventiveness to the original film and lacked the unique and bizarre style that the first has.  The same goes for Red Dawn, a remake which feels anachronistic, even with its modernizations.  The original takes place and was released in the 1980s, a time during the Cold War when the threat of war with the Soviet Union loomed like a shadow.  Even with the producers changing the threat to the more timely North Korea (in post-production as China was the planned threat), this film lacks the impact the original had when first released.

In Spokane, WA, North Korea launches an invasion of the United States and quickly occupies the town.  In town and visiting while on leave, U.S. Marine Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth) along with his  teenage brother Matt (Josh Peck), and a small group of other teens manage to escape capture and go into hiding.  Jed convinces the group that they have no choice, but to fight back and defend their town. Dubbed the Wolverines, after their high school mascot, the teens form a band of guerillas and fight for America’s freedom.

So aside from the antagonists, the modern touches and a few changes in the characters, screenwriters Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore do not deviate much from the original’s screenplay by John Milius and Kevin Reynolds.  While the original movie is not a particularly  great film, it packed more of a punch in 1984, not only because of its timeliness, but because of its gritty and somber style.  While the whole premise probably seemed a tad silly at the time, the premise feels even more absurd this time around.  The story raises way too many questions.  Why has the U.S. military not responded to an attack on this particular state? It is mentioned that North Korea has attacked other parts of the U.S., but why haven’t more military arrived to aid Washington?  The whole outlandishness of these kids accomplishing so much without getting killed early in the movie should go without saying.

Director Dan Bradley helms this update and does so quite sloppily. The cinematography by Mitchell Amundsen seems to follow in the recent irritating tradition of shaky handheld work which makes the action nearly impossible to discern.  This frustrates me to end. Even in smaller budget films, what is so difficult about using a tripod? The Steadicam has to be one of the greatest inventions in filmmaking and it seems that it hardly gets used anymore. Please filmmakers, I am sure that I am not alone when I say, enough with the handheld, shaky camera, found footage style, especially in movies such as Red Dawn which are not supposed to be found footage captured by one of the characters!

For the most part, the performances by the cast range from fine to not so great.  I enjoyed the work by Chris Hemsworth, Adrianne Palicki (Toni), Josh Hutcherson (Robert) and Jeffery Dean Morgan (Col.Andy Tanner), but thought Josh Peck, who portrays Matt Eckert, offers a wooden performance.  He seems to milk this one goofy dumbfounded stare that he attempts to use to express his emotions.

So based on my complaints on the anachronism, absurdity, and sloppy filmmaking, one should be able to deduce that I do not recommend this film for theatrical viewing whatsoever.  The whole experience certainly is not a horrible one, but a highly unnecessary one.  I’d say wait to rent it when released on video, but why wait? The original film is already available and probably would make for a more satisfying rental.

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