March 7, 2013

Movie Review: Red Dawn

Movie Review: Red Dawn

What’s the capitalist term I’m trying to think of…lazy-faire?

Red Dawn
Director: Don Bradley
Writer: Carl Ellsworth, Jeremy Passmore
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Will Yun Lee
Studio: Contrafilm
Release Date: November 21, 2012

1984’s Red Dawn was an extreme right-wing fantasy. Set during the Cold War, teenagers flexed their Second Amendment rights and blasted away the commies invading the United States. However, this toothless remake begs for relevancy. It sat on the shelf for two years and finally found release during the 2012 election season; perhaps to capitalize on the polarizing politic discourse. However, it is unlikely anyone on either side of the political spectrum would give this new Red Dawn a favorable vote.

The plot is familiar. Communists, from North Korea this time, attack the United States. Brothers Jed (Hemsworth) and Matt (Peck) train a group of teens in the Spokane, Washington to fight back. Known as the Wolverines, the small militia plays a pivotal role in taking their country back.

Of course, the audience never is sure what the country is being taken back from. The villains are so generic, they were easily changed by CGI’ing over some flags and redubbing their native language. The commies were originally filmed as Chinese. The studio then changed them to North Korean in post production because it’s bad marketing to upset over a billion potential ticket buyers. At least the fear of grinding away in sweatshops while manufacturing cheap knick-knacks for Walmart would be a legitimate fear if China took over. Instead, the only reason given to be afraid of North Korea is because communism was scary thirty years ago.

The Russians are also involved with the occupation, just in case North Korea wasn’t frightening enough. If you’re too young to know the Russians were once the U.S.’s real life communist nemesis, there is a big neo-Soviet, easily identified by his blue hat, who stabs teenagers. There, now do you see how nasty that democratic nation secretly is?

As to why so many resources are used to invade a small northwestern town is never explained, which further complicates any attempt at understanding the invasion. A reeducation camp is built, just like in the original. However, it isn’t filled with the Wolverine’s fathers. Rather, the North Koreans take over an entire country to lock up its cheerleaders. Communism must be pretty awful if it jails the hot blondes.

The communists have one weakness though, besides not being able to kill a handful of teenage soldiers. The Wolverines can turn the war around by stealing a radio. To be fair, it’s a magic radio. It’s immune to the electronic magnetic pulse machine the North Koreans used to knock out the American’s power. Maybe the Wolverines would have done better stealing the device that could actually shut down the North Korea’s machinery, rather than the one used for listening to them. Presumably, the same number of explosions could have been produced in a plot that attempted to make more sense.

The writers may not understand how to construct decent plot or motivations, but they also manage to include unsatisfying character arcs too. Matt has a character flaw. He always puts himself before others. A Wolverine needlessly dies because Matt goes off mission to selfishly save his cheerleader girlfriend. Obviously, Matt will need to make a team decision requiring him to sacrifice his needs to show he’s learned there is no I in team. At least it should be obvious. However, the film can’t even adequately execute an elementary school level morality tale.

Red Dawn is an exploitation film that never exploits. It doesn’t play on the fears of even the most delusional paranoid shut in. There’s no need to rush out and arm yourself, this film is easy to resist.

Red Dawn is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and other formats beginning March 5, 2013.

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