Review

There's just no reason for 'Red Dawn' remake

San Francisco ChronicleNovember 20, 2012 

Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson and Chris Hemsworth in FilmDistrict's "Red Dawn."

FILMDISTRICT

  • Red Dawn C- Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Adrianne Palicki, Josh Hutcherson, Josh Peck, Jeffrey Dean Morgan Director: Dan Bradley Website: www.reddawnfilm.com Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes Rating: PG-13 (sequences of intense war violence and action, and for language) Theaters (factbox_subhead) xxTheaterListxx

The most striking thing about “Red Dawn” is not that it’s dumb, but that it’s unnecessary. And irrelevant. And makes no sense for 2012.

The movie is a remake of the 1984 film of the same name, which imagined a ground attack on the mainland United States by the Soviet Union, with average Americans rising up to beat them back. The premise was fantastic even at the time, but it came out of the era’s very real Cold War tensions, of a world with two superpowers competing head to head. People felt paranoid, and “Red Dawn” spoke to that paranoia.

Twenty-eight years later, there is no Soviet Union, so who might attack the United States and gain an immediate foothold on both coasts? Really, who should we be worried about? The answer: North Korea. That’s right, in the new “Red Dawn,” North Korea finally makes its move and almost knocks us out with one blow. Scary, huh? Feel the chill?

It’s a funny thing. The rest of the world thinks of the United States as tough and borderline invincible, but Americans always feel just a little uneasy, a little vulnerable. Yet I doubt even the biggest geopolitical nervous wreck has spent much time worrying that North Korea might start landing ground troops in Spokane, Wash. And even the depiction of precisely that in “Red Dawn” – plus aerial bombing – won’t make that a popular nightmare.

So “Red Dawn” has its own absurdity to contend with. Then it has to contend with everything else. Chris Hemsworth – when is this actor going to catch a break? – plays a Marine, on leave back home in Spokane, who turns out to be a good man to have around in a crisis. One morning, the North Koreans arrive and start blowing up the neighborhood, and curiously no one reacts as one might expect. Yes, they seem distressed, but no one is shocked. No one says, “Why are the Koreans blowing up the neighborhood?!” Rather, they act like they were sort of expecting it but hoping it wouldn’t happen.

The Marine, with the help of a young lady (Adrianne Palicki) who would be his lover if only the Koreans would stop shooting long enough for them to take their clothes off, forms a guerrilla band of warriors. In no time, the guerrillas have machine guns. Then they have explosives, lots of them, though how they acquire them is never quite accounted for.

It should be said that “Red Dawn” is not repellent and sometimes isn’t boring. Any sequence in which Americans are trying to blow up, say, a building full of invading politicians and generals, has a certain built-in rooting interest, as well as a story interest: Will the bomb go off?

Unfortunately, the characters are so programmatic, the premise so ridiculous and the situations so far-fetched even if you accept that premise that no energy can be built, and the little that’s there can’t be sustained. “Red Dawn” is a vigorous but pointless exercise.

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