Grade: D (1/5 stars)
If the employees of Target and Walmart are frustrated that they have to work on Thanksgiving Day, I’d like to see what they would think of Subway staying open during an invasion by North Korea. Yes, according to the new version of “Red Dawn,” which opened in theaters nationwide on Nov. 21, Subway will still be open when people are getting slaughtered by machine guns, rocket launchers, and tanks. If you don’t want to take your $5 Footlong home, don’t worry, you can sit in the restaurant and enjoy it while watching everyone else die.
After being shelved for two years due to MGM’s financial woes, “Red Dawn,” finally sees the light of day courtesy of FilmDistrict. But it probably would have been best for the film to continue collecting dust on the shelf, or if it never got made at all.
The enemies of this “Red Dawn” were supposed to be Chinese. However, during post-production, they were changed to North Korean. This was done so the film could be more appealing to the Chinese market, which, apparently, is a very profitable market for American films. I’m going to assume North Korea isn’t. I’m also going to assume the Chinese are much happier with Americans for not putting them in the villainous role.
The plot is pretty much the same, ridiculous one as the 1984 version. America gets invaded by a foreign military; a group of high school kids form their own military and call themselves the Wolverines, after their high school mascot. Instead of Calumet, Colo., it’s Spokane, Wash. that gets attacked. It’s unclear why North Korea has invaded, but does that matter? Apparently, the filmmakers didn’t think so. But the leader does say into a bullhorn that he doesn’t like how things are being done in America, and they want to try their own thing. Yeah, that’s clear enough for this movie, I guess. Oh, and, for the sake of paying tribute to the original film, a few Russians help the North Koreans. But there’s no explanation as to why that happens.
Chris Hemsworth, pre-“Thor” and “The Avengers,” is the leader of the pack, giving all the cliche leader speeches, because he’s the only one of the young bunch who has actually served in the military. Sure, Hemsworth is a good actor, and his other shelved flick to finally get released this year, “The Cabin in the Woods,” proved that. Here, he is the only mildly convincing one of the whole bunch. But even he is given bad dialogue such as “Even the tiniest flea can drive a big dog crazy.”
The rest of the cast, including Josh Hutcherson (“The Hunger Games”), Josh Peck (TV’s “Drake & Josh”), and even Jeffrey Dean Morgan (“Watchmen,” TV’s “Grey’s Anatomy”) are all so one-dimensional in their performances. Morgan utters some of the most machismo, nonsensical lines such as, “It’s a good day to die, gentlemen.”
Dan Bradley, making his directorial debut here, must have had some assistance from Michael Bay. The film rushes from setting the scenario to full blown action and explosions accompanied by a headache-inducing score and “Blair Witch”-style camera shake. Whenever there’s a possibility that we’ll get some character development, an action scene breaks out. Whenever it looks like there’s going to be some emotional scene, action ensues. The film’s 95 minute runtime feels like one continuous and boring action segment, giving no breathing room for the viewer or the film’s characters.
John Milius’ version was one of my favorite action films growing up. It’s been a while since I last saw it, and I’m sure if I watch it now, I won’t get the same effect I did when I was a teenager. It will probably be more of a guilty pleasure, which is how it usually goes when you revisit your childhood. It certainly can’t be worse than what Bradley did, who, by the way, leaves his version open for a possible sequel.
“Red Dawn” is now playing at Cinemark 14 in Chico. Click here for showtimes.
David also writes as the Chico Events Examiner and the National Boardwalk Empire Examiner.
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