Friday 15 March 2013

Red Dawn review

Red Dawn (12A, 93 mins)
Director: Dan Bradley
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

by Steven Neish

Arriving home to Spokane, Washington on leave, U.S. Marine Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth) meets his father, Police Sergeant Tom Eckert (Brett Cullen), at a football game being played by younger brother Matt (Josh Peck). Following a blackout at the after-party, Jed and Matt wake to find the sky full of invading soldiers paratrooping from overhead transport aircraft. Forced to flee without their father, the brothers pick up a number of Matt’s peers on the way out of town, moving into the family retreat as they try to decide what to do next. Opting to fight rather than flee, the young rebels name themselves after their school football team and wage guerrilla warfare on the enemy forces.

A remake of John Milius’ 1984 film of the same name, Red Dawn finally arrives in cinemas after years spent on a shelf at MGM due to the studio’s financial troubles. Due to the emergence of a lucrative Chinese market in the interim, director Dan Bradley used this prolonged post-production to manipulate the film’s antagonists, changing their ethnicity from Chinese to North Korean. As a result of this delay, any momentum that the project might have built has long since dissipated.

Luckily, this has done the finished result something of a favour, as Red Dawn is best viewed on a whim with little in the way of preconceptions or expectation. Just as the original Red Dawn was far from a revelation, so too is this Red Dawn a nuts and bolts actioner that will entertain you across its running time only to unceremoniously vanish from memory shortly after the credits have rolled. Good thing really, as any further thought would only serve to reveal how ridiculous the film actually is. And my word is it ridiculous.

Opening with a football game so loud it may well register on the Richter Scale, Bradley does his best to bludgeon audiences into a sort of drooling submission to presumably stop them from questioning the plot as it unfolds. Why is the music louder outside of the car than inside, he doesn’t want you to ask. What sort of Mickey Mouse military would ever attempt to colonise America? How do The Wolverines enter and exit the captured zone with such ease, and why does nobody else exploit this obvious enemy oversight? Also, wasn’t this remade already as Tomorrow, When The War Began?

If all war movies were summarily dismissed for being silly, however, there wouldn’t be much of a genre left. You’re not meant to take it seriously, and it is hard to imagine how anyone could possibly be offended by a film so readily ridiculous, yet a number of reviews have accused the film of being jingoistic and hateful, citing the same rhetorical speeches and racial stereotypes that litter most of these films. Strange, really, as you don’t exactly have to read between the lines to hear Chris Hemsworth compare his Wolverines to the freedom fighters battling against U.S. forces in Iraq or calling out a local girl for her geographical ignorance. And then there’s the absolute gem of a one-liner: “Marines don’t die, they go to hell and regroup”.

Red Dawn is not a good movie, but neither is it anything to get worked up about. A capable cast (bolstered in the third act by a late appearance from Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and a laughable script will likely keep its target audience entertained, but even the most undemanding viewers will be as hard-pressed to distinguish 2012′s Red Dawn from the original, or any other action film from the 1980s. Or, for that matter, their subsequent remakes.

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