Movie Review: Red Dawn

This film image released by Film District shows Josh Peck , left, Josh Hutcherson, center, and Chris Hemsworth in a scene fro
This film image released by Film District shows Josh Peck , left, Josh Hutcherson, center, and Chris Hemsworth in a scene from "Red Dawn." (AP Photo/Film District)

John Milius' Red Dawn, released in 1984, was a simplistic, militaristic rabble-rouser of a film, a Reagan-era Cold War relic that offered lots of rah-rah about how mighty the United States fighting spirit was, even when its military was taken out of the picture. It looked silly and dated when it was released; now it's practically unwatchable.

So the idea that this is not only a classic but that it justifies a remake is ludicrous at best. This was a movie that needed to be forgotten, not resurrected.

The new Red Dawn isn't that much better than the original and doesn't make much more sense. About the only thing it doesn't do is make the imposing of Sharia law part of its package of horrors.

Instead of the Russians invading, as happened in the original, it's the North Koreans, in this film. Because of studio shuffles, this film sat on the shelf for a couple of years and, apparently, the filmmakers changed the villains from the Chinese to the North Koreans because, well, we want things from the Chinese (like a huge mass audience for this film).

After an opening montage about North Korea's amped up weaponry (provided by those wily but non-invading Chinese) and headlines about a weakened America (let's see -- the desiccation of the American military happened on George W. Bush's watch fighting two unfunded wars, right?), suddenly the sky over Spokane, Wash, is full of North Koreans with parachutes, who hit the ground firing automatic weapons at the suburbanites.

It's hard to tell what the game plan is here for those Koreans, Spokane not being the strategic center of much of anything. But that's not really the concern of director Dan Bradley or writers Jeremy Passmore and Carl Ellsworth. Instead, they focus on a group of teenagers, led by brothers played by Chris Hemsworth and Josh Peck. They round up a group of pals and head for a cabin in the woods.

There, they grab what weapons they possess and become a marauding band of guerrilla fighters, bedeviling the occupying Korean forces, killing as many as possible and stealing their weapons. How do they know how to take on highly trained military forces? Well, Hemsworth is a U.S. Marine, home on leave, who quickly trains the high-schoolers to be junior Rambos.

There's no real story, just a series of firefights and skirmishes, as the youngsters -- who call themselves the Wolverines after the local high-school team -- try to rid the town of alien invaders. What else are red-blooded American kids going to do?

The only interesting aspect of the film is that Bradley has amped up the urban-warfare aspect. The chases and battles set in city landscapes have a certain kinetic excitement that's impossible to deny (and will have to do until those last two Hunger Games movies come along).

Otherwise, these are generic and stock characters, set in story that is laughable and manipulative. The film doesn't celebrate much of anything except the virtue of kicking ass. The last few times the U.S. was attacked on its own soil -- from Oklahoma City to the World Trade Center -- it wasn't by an invading army but a sneak attack. But it's easier to rouse a lazy audience with a movie like this than one they might actually have to think about.

Better that this Red Dawn had stayed on the shelf.

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