'Red Dawn' has the North Koreans knocking down our door
“Red Dawn” is a lot funnier than you remember.
This remake is based on 1984's Reagan-era rah-rah movie about rural footballers who run Russian invaders and their Cuban and Nicaraguan surrogates out of America. The new “Red Dawn” dispenses with a lot of that red-meat Red-State “reds” scariness and settles into a solid if silly action picture about what happens after the North Koreans invade.
A brisk news montage under the opening credits, featuring snippets of stories about global financial collapse, rogue state cyber-warfare programs, Obama and Biden warning about this threat or that foreign policy challenge, does all that any “Red Dawn” could ever do to make this plausible. Yes, the North Koreans have a huge army and a government bent on creating global chaos. No, it won't help the movie to worry about how they could transport that army to the Pacific Northwest.
That's where ex-jock/ current Marine Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth) is on leave, visiting his widowed police chief dad (Brett Cullen) and ball-hog quarterback younger sibling Matty (Josh Peck), when the paratroopers tumble in. “North Korea - it doesn't make any sense.”
But stuntman-turned-director Dan Bradley doesn't sit still long enough for that to sink in. In a jerky and jarring shaky-cam escape sequence, the Eckert brothers and assorted friends and hangers-on - the tech nerd (Josh Hutcherson), the mayor's son (Connor Cruise), assorted jocks and cheerleaders - head for the hills. Or the mountains. That's where they plot America's comeback.
“We inherited our freedom,” Jed, who literally towers over the others, preaches. “Now it's up to all of us to fight for it.”
The original “Red Dawn” was co-written and directed by John Milius, a primal-violence primitivist and true believer when it came to the Soviet menace. His movie had a scruffy, lived-in “Friday Night Lights”-meets-”Lord of the Flies” aura about it - rural kids comfortable with guns improvising their way to getting comfortable shooting Russians and Cubans. The new “Dawn” has the Thor-sized Marine teach city kids insurgent warfare. Not better, just different.
The original film was weepy - ex-jock Patrick Swayze mourning his father (Harry Dean Stanton), who had the best line not repeated here: “Avenge me, boys!” It had Jennifer Grey risking her neck and dying a good death. Here, it's mushy-centered self-absorbed Josh Peck trying to free his imprisoned cheerleader girlfriend (Isabel Lucas). The new “Dawn” doesn't have the moist-eyed heart that a true believer might have given it.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan is the real soldier who stumbles into their midst (Powers Boothe played that role in the original). Will Yun Lee is the hapless North Korean captain chasing these “Wolverines,” insurgents who take their high school mascot's name into combat. One area in which the remake matches the original is in school spirit, cheer-leading every ambush. It's a real crowd-pleaser.
And it betters the first film with every fire fight, every improvised explosion. Bradley auditions for a future “Die Hard” here. And passes.
Which is about where “Red Dawn” lands - a passing grade. Then and now, it doesn't pay dividends to think too hard about how what happens, happens. If you need a villain, sometimes you've got to build him up to make it seem plausible.
Roger Moore is a movie critic for McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: After L.A., NFL should tread carefully
- Acme man’s ephemeral sculptures appear to defy laws of physics
- Oncologists wary of scaled-back guidelines in cancer screenings
- Kennywood fanatic, 82, rides Jack Rabbit 95 times in a row
- Early success in White House race a pleasant surprise for Carson
- Starter Liriano strikes out 12, leads Pirates to series sweep of Mets
- Cochran repair center planned in Harrison
- Memorial Day service in National Cemetery of the Alleghenies still growing
- A family’s flag flies again in Mt. Pleasant
- Neighbor arrested after McKeesport house fire, authorities say
- Motorcyclist killed after striking pole in Penn Township