Considering the number of times I rolled my eyes during the brief yet unbearable 93 minutes of Red Dawn, I can’t believe they aren’t currently stuck in the back of my head. I wasn’t exactly expecting an immaculate motion picture here, but after the super intense combination of news clips and credits at the start, I thought maybe I’d be in for something at least partially badass and entertaining. Not the case. The plot, the acting, the writing, the directing, the action…it’s all bad. I have to admit I’ve never seen John Milius’s 1984 original starring Patrick Swayze, but it can’t be anywhere near as dreadful as this garbage.
Red Dawn begins with Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth, who should honestly just play Thor and no other character ever), a Marine on leave, attending his brother’s big high school football game. Josh Peck plays Matt Eckert and tries his best to prove he’s as cool, if not cooler, than his fictional brother Drake from Drake & Josh. Spoiler alert: he is not. It’s so forced with him playing a hothead quarterback that somehow landed a smoking hot girlfriend (Isabel Lucas as Erica). None of which is believable for those of you who have seen at least three minutes of any episode from the popular Nickelodeon show. Sure, The Wackness was good, but Peck barely has any talent.
In the five or so minutes we see Jed and Matt interact, we learn that some sort of hostility exists between them. Then, before any kind of genuine glimpse into their lives can come to fruition, North Korea invades the U.S. and their city of Spokane, Washington awakens to jets soaring overhead and soldiers parachuting onto the streets. The protagonists escape to their cabin in the woods (insert Chris Hemsworth related joke here) with some friends after injuring and even killing a handful of North Korean men. While briefly away from their hideout, Captain Cho (Will Yun Lee) discovers their location (because he apparently has nothing better to do than hunt down a couple of kids after literally one day in the States) and kills the Eckert boys’ father to prove a point. Now this group of ragtag teenagers decides to fight the enemy and win back their home, calling themselves “The Wolverines,” in honor of their high school mascot.
In an absurdly brief montage showcasing the group’s practice with weapons, these inexperienced youths become a threatening military force in a matter of hours. I’m guessing Jed is the greatest Marine of all time since he knows how to construct a bomb as easy as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and teach all his pals to do the same. Then, of course, he knows how to secretly approach an abandoned building with a boatload of guns so discretely that not one North Korean soldier even gives a double take in his direction. I’m just assuming that because there is not one single scene showing their plan of attack or predetermined route to a specific area. But then when they enter the streets again, the first thing everyone does is dispose of their guns. Don’t worry, no one considers them a threat afterwards either.
The part that really makes zero sense is that Matt’s girlfriend, along with dozens of other people, is captured and put in a prison while everybody else is allowed to walk the streets freely. Why are they so special? And after one particular attack, two characters enter a Subway restaurant where people are eating casually. Immediately following that part, the gang discusses what they miss most and one complains about not being able to get pizza. Subway is open for business with fresh supplies, but not one pizza place is still operating? Riddle me that, Batman.
That’s an example of the lazy and incoherent script. It’s never explained how or why anyone is in any of the situations they encounter. The acting is atrocious too. You’ve read my complaints about the two main stars, and no one else is any better. Josh Hutcherson does not deserve any of the attention he’s been getting in recent years. There is nothing of value there. I’m not even going to get into the rest of the cast because they’re all equally crummy. Together they form the largest group of one-dimensional characters I’ve seen in a long, long time. Go Wolverines! By the way, every time they shouted their battle cry, I cringed. And I’m pretty sure I heard some subtle wolverine growls over the soundtrack during the final fighting sequences.
The only thing that could’ve saved Red Dawn was the action and even that’s nothing to write home about. The director, Dan Bradley, originally a stunt coordinator for multiple action films like The Bourne Ultimatum and Quantum of Solace, couldn’t toss in any impressive effects other than maybe one or two that are halfway decent. One scene towards the end managed to wake me up before I started packing my things in preparation for leaving the theater, but then the plot had nowhere else to go so the film ends without a concrete conclusion. I’m not lying when I say that other than a total of maybe eleven scattered minutes (and that’s being quite generous), I seriously did not like this film. Enjoy your freedom and don’t sit through this hour and a half of cinematic torture.
A group of teenagers look to save their town from an invasion of North Korean soldiers.