Red Dawn (2012)
Review by Jude Felton
The remake of Red Dawn has had its share of problems, with an original release set for 2010 being shelved due to MGM’s troubles, and also changing the villains of the movie from Chinese to North Korean’s in post-production. Those in themselves though should really have no bearing on the actual quality of the film though; those are problems of their own making.
The premise of Red Dawn is simple enough; North Korea invades the US, although the film focuses on Spokane, Washington, of all places, and it’s down to a bunch of kids to fight back. Simple enough, right? You know you’re on to a winner when the main family involved are the All-American family; the father is a police officer, the oldest son, Jed (Chris Hemsworth) is a Marine and the youngest, Matt, is the High School Quarterback. Yes, it is that sort of film.
Anyhoo, the Koreans invade and take over Spokane, with promises to restore America’s former prosperity and right all the wrongs. The kids are having none of it, and form their own militia, which comes to be known as the Wolverines (after the school football team), and set about fighting back. You can also throw into the mix some pointless love stories and a lone Russian soldier that appears in a couple of scenes and then vanishes.
My problems with the film aren’t necessarily to do with the plot, or execution of it, itself, as the film is what it is. The real problem is that the filmmakers have tried to ram so much into the 90 minute running time that the film feels rushed and there are too many leaps in logic. One minute the kids are just that; kids, then a couple of minutes later they are highly trained killing machines. The Koreans invade, which is a pretty cool sequence, and then they have the town taken over and set up like a military base. There is no progression in time, just giant leaps forward.
Personally speaking, and I know this is a remake, I think this would have worked far better as a TV series in the vein of The Walking Dead. This would have allowed the filmmakers take their time developing what is, at its heart, an interesting and ultimately terrifying story. Instead we get a rushed version which still manages to drag in places, mainly due to the many deep conversations and romantic interludes.
Also, some of the battle/fight sequences seemed to be filmed a little too close-up. This was a problem in The Expendables, and it’s a problem here. I want to see these battles unfold; there’s no need to have the camera all up in everyone’s grill, so to speak.
In terms of the cast, Chris Hemsworth does have an onscreen charisma and does what he can with the material here, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who doesn’t turn up until towards the end, is also his usual watchable self. The rest of the cast are perfunctory, without anyone standing out, other than to annoy in place.
Visually, aside from the extreme close-ups, Red Dawn does actually look and sound very good, especially in HD. If only the material had been a little stronger to back this up.
Overall, regardless of whether or not this is a remake, I felt that it was a wasted opportunity. There was too much crammed into the short running time, without anything really being allowed to develop. Make of the plot itself what you will, but it is a premise worth visiting, just maybe with a little less of the jingoistic chest-beating, and a tad more subtlety, and things might have been better.
Red Dawn isn’t a train wreck by any stretch of the imagination, but there is far too much working against it for me to give a viewing recommendation.
Red Dawn is released by 20th Century Fox and MGM and is available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital now.