By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adriane Palecki, Isabel Lucas and Jeffrey Dean Morgan
There is something to be said about films that get completed and stay on shelves for years on end. In the last year, there have been two of note, coincidently both starring Chris Hemsworth. One, Cabin in the Woods, was released by Lionsgate and was a fun box office hit. The other in question is this remake (or retelling, as the studio wants us to believe) of Red Dawn. Finished in 2009, it has sat on the shelf since (mostly due to MGM’s bankruptcy), and Red Dawn is finally seeing the light of day. Directed by stunt coordinator extraordinaire Dan Bradley (the Spider-Man and Bourne films), Red Dawn is the type of action film that is intended to grab holiday audiences who are probably not going to be excited to see something like Lincoln. Unfortunately, it also falls to deliver any hint of solid entertainment. As narrative corners are cut in every single instant (man, I wish I had a cell phone battery that lasted three days) the film becomes less and less involving until the very end, where the absolute implausability of it all cannot disguise its intent of being a fantastical action film. Even its success in that area needs to be questioned.
Now, I do have to clarify something before we go any further: I have not seen the original 1984 film this was based on. By all accounts, it was a propaganda piece in which people are shown to be defenders of our country as the Red Scare (Russia) invades, with action set pieces and war scenes galore. So, I really do not have the original as a backdrop to set my review of this one on. However, I am sort of glad I didn’t, as I can judge this Red Dawn on its own merit. And, I doubt I could feel any worse about what goes on here than I do. Hemsworth has the Patrick Swayze role. And, he is the only one who looks to at least be having a little bit of fun here. He plays an Iraqi vet who struggles to put his family back together. He is pretty good, and is starting to come into his own as a tremendous actor. In fact, I could see him hurdling the action genre pretty soon for whatever one he wants. This praise does not go for the majority of his co-stars, however. Peck (who looks absolutely nothing like Hemsworth but is playing his little brother) just grated on the nerves. Palecki (GI Joe 2) plays Hemsworth’s love interest, and it is very apparent why she has been the go to action girl lately, as she certainly has the charisma and looks to do so. As far as Hutcherson goes, this was obviously filmed way before his breakthrough role in Hunger Games. And, thank goodness that film came out first, because his thankless role of tech geek Robert is just that and no one who is anyone would see this and see the charisma he would display in his later film. However, the pits is definitely Cruise (adoptive son of Tom). Most of his scenes involve him teaming with Peck, and every single line he delivers are about as wooden as Redwood City.
Red Dawn 2012 was written by Carl Ellsworth. And, it is interesting that a movie written by the same guy who did Red Eye (which was actually pretty good until it fell apart at the end) can write a script with so many loose ends. Especially considering how tight of a script Red Eye was. But, the kids here have super cell phone batteries, and no matter how mercilessly dumb they are as teenagers, they sure as hell can out Marine the Marines. I am a fan of unbelievability to an extent. But, when it comes to implausability, I can only take so much. Not to mention, Bradley’s directing leaves a bit to be desired. Sure, he stages a few decently staged glossy action scenes and one cool bit of suspense (the white parachutes landing in Washington was a very nicely done scene). But, overall he drops the ball here. As, in order to have an action film be entertaining, if nothing else is going for you (which this film has none but its main star), you need a good villain. Unfortunately, Captain Cho (Will Yun Lee) only says about two lines and is not this group of North Korean troops’ Darth Vader. In fact, the only person who is even a bit entertaining is Morgan, who along with the rest of the Marines that show up in the second half of the movie, gets a few good lines in, and injects the film with a much-needed dose of energy.
Overall, I would say skip this reboot, retelling, or whatever the studio is calling it. Despite its little more than halfway decent action scenes, the film goes from standing on Hemsworth’s solid shoulders to falling on its face real quick. It doesn’t help that the very beginning throws at us a silly news montage that is trying its best to convince us this is real and plausible. I understand that an action film is not meant to be taken seriously, and if I am having a good time, all of these inconsistencies can go over my head like an airplane. However, there is absolutely no fun to be had here, and its implausability is where its weaknesses start, not end. Now, where did my copy of Cabin in the Woods go?
2 out of 5