Red Dawn Review

Film Still
  • Red Dawn film still


Go Wolverines! Naff and unnecessary remake of John Milius' pinko paranoia shoot-em-up.

In running the rule over any remake of a beloved 'classic', it’s tempting to begin by comparing the differences in the cinematic, cultural and political worlds into which they were released. One could, for instance, immediately spend an opening salvo bleating on about how John Milius' 1984 original Red Dawn crystalised street-level fears of Cold War conflict into a timely, cathartic – if somewhat empty-headed – anti-Commie rumble.

Or that it was released into a filmic landscape readying itself for the lunatic jingoism of Arnie’s Red Heat and Sly’s Rocky IV. Or that Geordie blowhard Sting would soon be bothering the pop charts with his soft-rock polemic Russians.

Yes, you could do all that, but it would – much like Dan Bradley’s unsolicited retread – be a waste of everyone’s time. Because Red Dawn 2.0 is so dull, sloppy, thematically wonky, anonymous, noisy and unnecessary as to render any such comparisons moot.

An occupying foreign army invades the US and it’s up to a clutch of ethnically diverse letterman-jacketed provincial High School football stars to save the day. We all know the drill. It’s a fairly solid scenario, and back in the day Milius used it as a platform for both his personal brand of lusty speechifying  and loopy macho bullshit and while delivering a slick action thriller starring an agreeable grab-bag of fresh-faced rising stars.

Wisely, Bradley doesn’t mess with the formula, but neither does he introduce any ingredients that might give the bare bones of the set-up any substance or flavor. Thus we’re stranded in the woods with a largely faceless bunch of sniveling teens who occasionally magic themselves into kill-crazy dogs of war in order to bloody the noses of their Chinese/North Korean [delete as applicable] overlords with a string of logic-neutral terrorist attacks.

And even that might – just – have been enough, but the whole enterprise is undercut by poor dialogue, tired characterisation, baddies who alternate between impossibly cruel and expediently myopic, and herky-jerky editing that not only makes it occasionally hard to tell who’s shooting at who, but also strings scenes together with little rhyme or reason.

The casting is similarly arbitrary, with the audience expected to buy the fact that Chris Hemsworth (a Norse god) and Josh Peck (the missing Jason Schwartzman character from The Royal Tenenbaums) are brothers. Elsewhere, Josh Hutcherson puts in a good shift as nervy comedy relief, while fans of Isabel Lucas' anti-performance in Transformers 3 are in for a real treat. Wooden? You could build a fucking sauna.

The whole film is placed into stark relief when proper actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan saunters in as a proper marine to give the plucky band some world-weary advice. His curious demeanour and encouraging tone makes it feel as if he’s wandered onto the set from another film – a proper film – in order to see if Red Dawn is as bad as he’s been hearing.

Well Jeffrey, it’s no disaster – just a real waste of time.

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