FANTASTIC FEST 2012
By Dave Campbell | September 26, 2012
Director: Dan Bradley
Writers: Carl Ellsworth, Jeremy Passmore (screenplay), Kevin Reynolds (story), Based on Red Dawn (1984) by Kevin Reynolds, John Milius
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Isabel Lucas, Connor Cruise, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Re-envisioned (a word we hear all too often these days) from the 1984 film Red Dawn, the new take follows along the same basic beats as its predecessor. The film was shot with China as the replacement aggressor to Russia from the original, but due to the controversial uproar that came out of China when that info hit China’s state-run news organizations, the filmmakers changed “the red menace” to North Korea in post production. Because hey, American audiences consider them the same thing anyway right? Sigh.
This time around a small town in Washington State (rather than Colorado) is targeted for invasion by an all out onslaught from the North Korean Army (with a little assistance from both Russia and China). While the townspeople are being killed and placed into prison camps, a small band of teenagers & twenty-somethings (one who happens to be an Iraq war veteran home on leave) rise up to fight against the hostile occupation calling themselves the “Wolverines”, named after their school mascot. With no other help in sight this rag-tag group must elevate their skills — via poorly executed montage — and rally others to help them take on impossible odds.
Something that I noticed very early on in this film, is the lacking attribute of chemistry. There is some likeability to the characters here and there, but due to the editing choices and gaping war-torn plot holes, it’s difficult to maintain emotional connections to the characters. If not for the decent performances of Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Red Dawn would have been completely unwatchable. Time and space are also important elements that are absent from the logic of the story, as portals and wizardry must have been available to the Wolverines off-screen since they seem to be able to survive in the wooded mountains that surround their town while somehow acquiring weapons, becoming bad asses, and showing up whenever and wherever they want without any explanation or information given to the audience.
It’s obvious that the financial limbo of MGM wasn’t the only reason that this 2009 production got shelved. I’m thinking that FilmDistrict picked up the U.S. distribution rights sheerly on the bet that they’d get some ROI (return on investment) from the current star power of Chris Hemsworth (Thor, The Avengers, Cabin in the Woods) and Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games). I’m not going to sugarcoat this; Red Dawn is regurgitated cheese with dirt rubbed on it. With the super corny dialogue, rough direction, and a far-fetched rehash of the Red Dawn (1984) story, this movie never had a chance.