Red Dawn is your typical teenagers and families come together to fight together against a common enemy. It is the typical action film that has been rebooted from the 80s only it more or less follows the same path as the original with no real effort to differentiate itself. The film makes no bones about it: we are here to entertain you for the next 93 minutes and won’t try to patronize the audience with any deeper meanings about relations with the North Koreans (formerly the Chinese, but changed so not to offend a nation full of paying theatergoers). The film does offer a distraction for a bit but never rises to the occasion to impress or answer any interesting observations the audiences may have.
The movie opens as Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth) makes his way home to Spokane, Washington to his police officer father (Brett Cullen) and quarterback younger brother Matt (Josh Peck). We see Matt get a little too cocky and lone wolf in trying to do something himself as opposed to involve his team, which foreshadows the future selfishness of his actions later on. Jed enlisted in the Marines and is back, but apparently left right after their mother died so the younger sibling feels abandoned and wants none of the brotherly love. However, they don’t even get much of a chance to ignore each other as paratroopers start raining down from the skies and they carry assault rifles. Jed knows an occupation force when he sees one and gathers his brother and his friends and escape to avoid the evil that’s come to town. From there, they move into the woods which becomes their only safe haven as they learn news of what happened: North Korea just invaded America and is looking to establish their foothold with some help with the Russians. What are these kids to do? With a little help from their captured father, they decide they would fight back using guerrilla warfare tactics with Jed leading the way since he has combat experience.
Granted the story needs you to suspend your disbelief and it helps knowing that the original Red Dawn from the 80s is a cult classic. However, there’s a bit of ‘been there done that’ when it came to this movie. It never does anything out of the ordinary and plays it safe the whole time. For a story, that involves the North Koreans to grow a pair and invade the United States, you would think that there would be something more exciting and less methodical than everyone’s actions in the story. The script does go beat for beat with the original and throws very little variation, but feels more antiquated than nostalgic. It’s never really known why Spokane was picked or why this is all happening in the first place. When we get our villain, Captain Cho (Will Yun Lee), he is merely just there as a projection to focus Jed’s steely eyes against as he wants revenge. No back story, no motivations, just a cookie-cutter villain. I could go further and complain that everyone looks Chinese and not Korean at all and that the ADR in Korean over the actors’ mouths was distracting but I don’t think enough people will notice, or frankly would care.
We’ve seen the star power of Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson rise from the time this was filmed (a couple of years ago before Thor and The Hunger Games) so it’s fine to see these actors on screen but they aren’t given much to work with here. Adrianne Palicki does a good job too, but everyone else is a victim of zero character development so there’s no sympathizing with these characters and the actions that happen to them.
Speaking of action, the sequences are uninspired as they seem to take place in the same exact place every time. I felt bad for the North Koreans because there seems to be only checkpoint in town and they fail to hold it every single time. Too many times we get lazy visuals and set pieces so the audience’s attention tends to fade into the anti-climatic end. Director Dan Bradley does not take advantage of being a veteran of in the stunt industry and the second unit director of films like Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, The Bourne Ultimatum and Spider-Man 2 and 3. It almost feels like a wasted chance as he could done something great visually with the movie but instead meanders too much with drowned out colors and zero inventiveness and creativity to pique the interest of his audience.
Overall, it’s not a terrible film but just mediocre to the point. Reboots are popular in Hollywood, but are so hit and miss with the audience that I felt this could have been a great movie. Instead, we got treated to recycled action scenes and creatively devoid script that pulls punches with its visuals.
Again, for escapism sake, it’s good to sit back and just forget about the world for 93 minutes as you’re entertained as to why these high schoolers decide to rebel against a whole army. However, that also means you won’t remember a single thing of what happened after you leave the theater other than an odd desire to jump up to the nearest rooftop to yell, “WOLVERINES!!!!”