I’m not going to say that I definitely never saw the original Red Dawn back in the 1980s, but I certainly don’t remember ever seeing it. That is why I decided to finally give it a viewing last year. What I saw was a fun, flawed film very much of its time, with a great cast and plenty to please those seeking some nostalgic entertainment from that decade. This remake, which feels as if it’s been sitting on a shelf for at least two years now (I can’t recall the exact timescale, but there was certainly a delay in its release schedule), has a little bit of fun in the mix, but is mostly just flawed and doesn’t even have the nostalgia factor to help it find any fans.
Instead of the Russkies, this time around America is invaded by soldiers from North Korea (with a little help). When wartime sneaks up on them, a bunch of teenagers band together to tough it out and then build themselves into a rebel force out to cause as much trouble for the enemy as possible. And that’s it, that’s the far-fetched plot that stretches plausibility from the opening ten minutes or so right through to the end credits.
I don’t blame anyone involved for trying to get this remake made and sold to the masses, it’s a concept that has the potential for great entertainment. Sadly, in my opinion, neither version of the concept (from Kevin Reynolds) has managed to do it right. Toy Soldiers is still my preferred choice when it comes to movies that show teenagers having to fight back against military enemies.
Director Dan Bradley, working from an updated script by Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore, does nothing in the first half of the movie to make it tense and exciting. Many of the characters are either dull or unlikable and the whole premise just feels far too contrived (as it did in the original movie).
Things do pick up slightly in the second half, but there are still a number of glaring problems. Some characters are still hard to care for and the army now occupying America seems too easily avoided.
The cast is just as much of a mixed bag as everything else in the film. Josh Peck may not be the best young man to lead a film, but Chris Hemsworth plays his older brother so that evens out because I really like Hemsworth in pretty much anything he does. Connor Cruise is just okay, but Josh Hutcherson is as good as ever. Adrianne Palicki and Isabel Lucas are saddled with some pretty weak material, but try to make it work. Then we have the two main adults, Will Yun Lee as Captain Cho AKA the enemy and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Tanner, an American soldier. Both of these men do well and benefit from being involved in a number of the film’s better moments.
I didn’t hate the film, nor did I expect to, but I didn’t ever get fully drawn into the world that it tried to realise. Okay, I admit that I still smiled every time I saw or heard “Wolverines!”, but I’m easily pleased like that. It was a relatively painless experience, but I’ll probably never watch it again. Even if the only other choice was a Katherine Heigl movie.
Red Dawn was released last Friday here in the UK and probably won’t be around in cinemas for too long, judging by the apathetic response it’s had so far.
DIRECTOR: DAN BRADLEY
WRITER: CARL ELLSWORTH, JEREMY PASSMORE
STARS: CHRIS HEMSWORTH, JOSH PECK, JOSH HUTCHERSON, ADRIANNE PALICKI, ISABEL LUCAS, CONNOR CRUISE,EDWIN HODGE, BRETT CULLEN, WILL YUN LEE, JEFFREY DEAN MORGAN
RUNTIME: 93 MINS APPROX