FILM REVIEW: Red Dawn (15)

The 1984 version of Red Dawn, directed by John Milius, was a jingoistic action adventure of its time, for its time.

Released during the icy chill of The Cold War, the simplistic story of a group of plucky US teenagers fighting back against invading Soviet forces was a rousing call to arms to America against its military rival.

Patrick Swayze, C Thomas Howell and Charlie Sheen lent the film a certain cache that wooed audiences despite the lukewarm reviews.

Fast forward more than 25 years and global politics have changed beyond recognition.

Alas, Dan Bradley’s laboured remake hasn’t moved with the times.

Shot in 2009 and then consigned to a dusty shelf when film company MGM filed for bankruptcy, this spruced-up version of Red Dawn originally cast the Chinese as the Communist aggressors, who invade American soil.

Evidently, the filmmakers thought twice about vilifying a potentially lucrative market for the remake so in the intervening years, hasty rewrites and digital trickery have erased all mention of the Chinese and installed North Korea as the boo-hiss villains instead.

This last-minute change renders Bradley’s film nonsensical.

It’s highly unlikely that North Korea could muster the ground troops or military hardware to take control of everything except for a swathe of predominantly red states “from Michigan to Montana, Alabama to Arizona.”

Screenwriters Carls Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore snigger in the face of plausibility, and they have no firm grasp of characterisation or dialogue.

Their hunky hero is US Marine Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth), who returns home to Spokane, Washington to be reunited with his father, Police Sergeant Tom Eckert (Brett Cullen), and reckless younger brother Matt (Josh Peck).

No sooner has Jed unpacked his kit bag than troops led by Captain Cho (Will Yun Lee) parachute into Spokane, guns a-blazing.

Jed escapes with Matt and his cheerleader girlfriend Erica (Isabel Lucas) plus a few classmates including techno-geek Robert (Josh Hutcherson).

With surprising ease, Jed moulds his untrained charges into a tactically astute fighting machine, capable of taking down dozens of heavily armed North Korean soldiers without sustaining injury.

“When you’re all fighting in your own backyard, when you’re fighting for your family, it makes a little more sense. For them, this is just a place. For us, this is our home!” barks Jed.

The new incarnation of Red Dawn is ludicrous and lacklustre.

Director Dan Bradley cannot disguise gaping plot holes or the script’s ham-fisted attempt to splice global politics with propulsive action sequences and hoary teen angst.

The attractive, young cast deliver mediocre performances that are lost in the melee of explosions and Ramin Djawadi’s bombastic score.

When Hutcherson’s avid video gamer laments, “We’re living Call Of Duty - and it sucks,” he succinctly sums up our feelings.


Released: March 15 (UK & Ireland), 106 mins