By Forrest Hartman
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense war violence and action, and for language
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand
This remake of director John Milius’ 1984 film about a military invasion of America is reasonably enjoyable, as long as one doesn’t demand realism or political nuance. Because more than two decades have passed since the original movie hit theaters, director Dan Bradley and the screenwriting team of Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore had to make notable changes to the material, not the least of which is a new primary antagonist. In 1984, it was the Russians who invaded America, but in Bradley’s 21st century version, North Korean soldiers parachute into Spokane, Washington, creating chaos.
Before the Koreans gain firm control of the area, off-duty U.S. Marine Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth) and his teen brother, Matt (Josh Peck), flee to the mountains with several friends. Devastated by the fact that many of their relatives have been either killed or taken prisoner by the enemy, the small group of youngsters wage war against the Koreans using guerilla tactics. They also attempt to keep the imprisoned citizens of Spokane hopeful by taking the name Wolverines and calling attention to their exploits.
Since Jed is the only member of the group with military training, he becomes the leader, and he works hard to turn his teenage army into a lethal killing machine. As the Wolverines become increasingly effective in their attacks, the enemy devotes more attention to them, leading to escalating bloodshed. Unsurprisingly, “Red Dawn” does a lot of flag waving, and it is relatively successful at conveying the message that America’s strength lies not in its government but its individual citizens.
The movie is less successful in terms of believability. While it’s true that guerilla warfare can cause problems for any military organization, it’s difficult to believe the untrained Wolverines would be able to effectively outgun better-armed professional soldiers, as they do in the movie. This new “Red Dawn” is also more optimistic than its 1984 progenitor, and that’s disappointing. Both movies note that warfare has a cost, but that message isn’t nearly as pronounced this time.
In many respects, “Red Dawn” is the type of old-school war movie that glamorizes combat while ignoring the complexities of political conflict. Because of that, it works as mindless entertainment, but fails on a broader level.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include a collection of making-of featurettes.