The Cold War is over. So is the era of unapologetic alpha male action movies. Don’t tell the folks behind “Red Dawn.”
The film, a remake of the 1984 cult hit, sticks closely to the original formula of courageous kids, evil invaders and, of course, the battle cry which echoed throughout the decade.
Does it matter that the invading force this time around hails from North Korea and not the Soviet Union? Well, yeah. There’s plenty in the new “Dawn” that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Where “Red Dawn” rules is in its bone simple scenario. America is invaded. Time to fight for our liberty. Again.
Chris Hemsworth plays Jed Eckert, a U.S. Marine who returns stateside in time to witness a sky full of parachutists floating down toward his peaceful home town of Spokane, Wash. It’s a full-scale invasion courtesy of a North Korean army which uses a new weapon to shut down most of America’s defenses.
Jed isn’t ready to give up his country just yet. So he gathers his whiny brother (Josh Peck) and some other members of the local football team to form a guerrilla army ready to fight back by any means necessary.
The opening moments are filled with uncertainty and tension, and the youthful cast conveys the mandatory shocked expressions as their daily lives are upended. What follows is a loosely connected series of attacks pitting the scrappy young Americans versus the constantly surprised North Korean forces.
“Red Dawn” benefits mightily from Hemsworth’s presence. He wasn’t a star when the film began production – “Red Dawn” sat in limbo while the film studio went through bankruptcy hell – but he sure can carry any movie he pleases now. Peck isn’t worthy of Hemsworth’s shadow, lacking the inner strength of a little brother who slowly finds his voice in times of distress.
Director Dan Bradley, a stunt coordinator making a leap to the big seat, dabbles in shaky cam hysterics but mostly brings a propulsive force to his action sequences. Jed’s Army learns fast, and there’s a delicious sense of satisfaction watching them shred the arrogance of the occupying force.
But oh, what might have been? “Red Dawn” stumbles over poorly developed characters, a love story not worthy of even a flimsy recap and a patriotic flair lacking the connecting tissue of past wars and warriors. Some scenes bump into each other with little to no rhythm, as if waiting for excised moments to get stitched back into the story.
That leaves the irrepressible premise, mercifully untouched by the new cast and crew. Give all of the above credit for not bowing to political correctness or the need to understand the motivations of the invading army. It’s war, plain and simple, and the Wolverines intend to fight until the good guys gain the upper hand.
Isn’t that really all one can ask of a remake honoring a flawed movie that captured the zeitgeist all the same?