Review – Red Dawn

After the New Hollywood of the 70s self-destructed in a blaze of cocaine and squandered opportunities the 80s ushered in the kind of cinematic reckoning we’re still living with today.

Red Dawn Poster

Red Dawn – “a film so underwhelming you’d have to check your ticket to remember what it is you’ve just seen”

As well as being the decade that taste forgot, the 80s also served as the decade that embraced the tent pole blockbuster and gave us countless straight-to-video dumb-as-nails cheapies.

It’s a cinematic legacy we’re still living with today as the brain puddle at the heart of Tinseltown green-lights more and more remakes, re-imaginings and reboots.

Red Dawn

Sullen-looking Matt Eckert, Robert Kitner (Josh Hutcherson) and Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth) wonder what they’re doing in Red Dawn

This law of diminishing returns reaches a new bone-headed, flag-waving nadir with Red Dawn, a retread of the equally appalling 1984 flick directed by John Milius.

The original has gained a sort of cult appeal over the years (which probably explains the remake), but this casually ignores its many, many flaws, not least of which a script that’s so rabidly anti-communist it tramples over everything else, like a coherent narrative or character development.

That the context of the original at least made sense in that it you knew it was nothing more than a propaganda exercise for Ronald Reagan’s reheating of the Cold War, the timing of stuntman-turned-director Dan Bradley’s update is way off.

Red Dawn

The evil North Korean Captain Cho (Will Yun Lee) in Red Dawn

If it had been released during George W Bush’s tenure in the White House a similar argument could possibly be made, but the fact it went before the cameras in 2009 and is only now seeing the light of day rubber stamps what it is – a film out of its time, out-of-place and out on its ass.

While Milius’ original relied on the evil old Soviet Union to launch an invasion of the United States, Red Dawn 2.0 couldn’t even have the courage of its convictions to stick with China as its chief villain; in post-production this was changed to North Korea so as not to offend a potentially lucrative financial territory (as such it’s now reminiscent of the video game Homeland, also written by Milius).

Red Dawn

Red Dawn 2.0 – Patrick Swayze is probably spinning in his grave

The fact that North Korea would be able to muster a big enough army to launch a successful land invasion of the Land of the Free, and that such a force would go unnoticed until thousands of parachutes are seen over American skies is beyond laughable.

One can imagine the only reason this has made it into cinemas is to cash in on the star power of its lead Chris Hemsworth (Thor, The Avengers), whose US Marine Jed Eckert turns a ragtag group of teenagers into a gun-toting squadron of insurgents called the Wolverines (named after the local high school football team) out to take the homeland back from the evil clutches of the North Koreans, led by Captain Cho (Will Yun Lee).

Red Dawn

“Go Wolverines!”, or not, in Red Dawn

Setting aside the complete ridiculousness of the plot (hardly the first movie to be guilty of such a crime), Red Dawn‘s 93 minute running time at least avoids the Michael Bay trap of not knowing when to employ an editor.

That being said, those 93 minutes are some of the most lame-brained you’re likely to sit through this year. Hemsworth aside, the entire cast is dreadful, most notably Josh Peck as Jed’s sullen-looking brother Matt.

The odd choice line of dialogue aside (“Marines don’t die. They just go to hell and regroup”), the script slavishly adopts the lowest common denominator setting of a film so underwhelming you’d have to check your ticket to remember what it is you’ve just seen.


  1. Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop · March 15, 2013

    This is taking a proper hammering! Definitely not going to bother wasting my time or money on this one. Nice review man.

    • Three Rows Back · March 16, 2013

      I really wouldn’t bother! I hope I’ve saved you the time!

  2. CMrok93 · March 15, 2013

    Good review. This movie sucked, and deserves any type of negativity that may, and definitely is aimed towards it.

    • Three Rows Back · March 16, 2013

      Much appreciated. Of all the movies out there to remake this shouldn’t have been one of them.

  3. ckckred · March 15, 2013

    So I take it you don’t like the 80s.

    The movie looked really idiotic to me. I definitely won’t waste my time on it. Nice review.

    • Three Rows Back · March 16, 2013

      Thanks. There are many 80s films that I adore (Raging Bull, Back to the Future, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ghostbusters), but I think it’s perceived as the punishment film lovers had to endure for the golden age of 70s cinema. It would make an interesting topic of discussion though.

  4. Frame Rates · April 29, 2013

    It didn’t even have the conviction to run with China. What an epic fail. Great review!

    • Three Rows Back · April 29, 2013

      Thanks again! Yeah, a bad idea executed really, really badly. Absolutely no courage in their convictions.


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