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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.