By Gary “Crimson Sun-break” Murray
Starring Chris Helmsworth, Adrianna Palicki, Josh Hutcherson and Josh Peck
Written by Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore
Directed by Dan Bradley
Running time 105 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating—Cable
The original Red Dawn was one of those films that always seemed to be on television. The story was of a group of kids who fight the Russian Army after the invasion of America. The film starred Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson and Charlie Sheen—all actors who were becoming some of the biggest stars of that decade. Since Hollywood has become bereft of idea of late, they have gone on to re-making flicks and Red Dawn has been dragged into the 21st Century.
Even though this film has been of the shelf for a few years, it still looks mostly fresh. The reason the film might be getting a giant release is that Chris Helmsworth is now a major star and this looks to cash in on his fame. There are few other reasons to see this work.
The story of Red Dawn has not changed much in the last 30 years. The tale is still of a bunch of high school kids in the aftermath of a foreign invasion. This time it is the North Koreans who do the dirty work. The only truly cleaver bit of the movie happens at the very beginning. There is a montage of footage from old and new news clips that set up the idea that an invasion could happen. It is the only slightly frightening moment in the film, the fact that the film makers make a believable foundation for catastrophe.
Without much of a warning the invasion takes place and after a giant street-filled chase between a pick-up truck and tanks, a group of kids arrive to a cabin in the woods. They soon discover that the forces of resistance are few and far between. By hiding out, they soon discover that their captors are serious about rounding up the strays. These military men do not understand how determined a group of kids can be.
Eventually, these kids start a paramilitary group, reeking havoc and trying to free their fellow students. They are led by the much older Jed (Chris Helmsworth) a former soldier who knows how to fight and is determined to teach the younger kids all his skills. Josh Peck plays his younger brother Matt who has a definite chip on his shoulder with Jed. Matt just wants to save his girlfriend. Everything, the in-fighting and familial struggles, lead to an attack on the compound and a suggestion of Red Dawn II—Red Day. In the end, this becomes a very jingoistic adventure.
Dan Bradley is a second unit director and stunt coordinator who is finally getting the chance to direct his first action film. He fails at the task. So many of the action sequences are shot in a close-up hand held style that it becomes an act of frustration to understand exactly what is going on with the exploits. Time after time, the audience is bounced around with the camera and never sure of what is being suggested as thrills. The final product is an irritating mess and brings on motion sickness.
I remember seeing the original Red Dawn at the theaters and thought that it was silly and cheesy. This version is much of the same. There are only two reasons people are going to see this film. One is the fans of Chris Helmsworth wanting to see some more of that Thor magic and the second is those who could not get into seeing the action filled James Bond feature that is playing next door.
Red Dawn is more like last year’s Conan and Fright Night, a movie that begs the question—Why a re-make? The answer is simple. People are stupid and Hollywood wants their money. One of the characters says, “The tiniest flea can drive a big dog crazy.” This Red Dawn is one heck of a tiny flea that will drive audiences crazy.