Red Dawn was shot in 2009, before Chris Hemsworth became Thor and Josh Hutcherson made The Hunger Games, but it got caught up in MGM’s bankruptcy, resulting in the movie only now arriving on Blu-ray and DVD. While there was a decent reason for the delay, the fact is that like many movies that have sat on the shelf for a while, it’s not great – although it could have been a lot worse.
A remake of the 1984 movie that starred Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell and Lea Thompson, the new Red Dawn swaps out the Soviets for North Koreans invading the US. Teenager Matt (Josh Peck) isn’t too happy about the military brother he doesn’t get along with, Jed (Chris Hemsworth), coming home. However events overtake them when the North Korean army arrives and takes over their small American town and the nearby military installation.
Jed, Matt and a few other young people manage to get away from the invading forces and hole up in the woods. They decide they’re not going to take what’s happened lying down, and under Jed’s leadership they set up a resistance force, dubbed The Wolverines. Unsurprisingly the North Koreans aren’t too impressed with this guerrilla force and find ways to stop them, but the Wolverines are determined that this is their home and they’re going to take it back.
The main problem with Red Dawn is that it has a rather random quality. It often feels like we’re seeing selected bits of a story shoved together rather than a fully formed, driving plot. This undermines the characters, as whenever anything happens to them, the movie wants us to feel something about it, but there’s such a random feel to what’s going on it’s difficult to care about them.
On the plus side there are a couple of good action sequences and the acting isn’t too bad, but it’s all to serve a mediocre movie. Action fans may also get annoyed with the way the film cuts away anytime any violence happens, which was presumably done to secure a lower rating. It’s not done subtly and quickly becomes frustrating.
It is just about watchable though, although to be honest you’re still better off with the original, which is more easily entertaining.
One aspect of this new take I did like though is that it has a slightly subversive edge. Some people have seen the idea of the movie making the North Koreans the invaders unnecessarily provocative, but I couldn’t help but feel there’s something slightly more interesting underneath that. It’s a film about young people whose home is invaded by foreigners they feel have no right to be there. They then use guerrilla tactics – labelled terrorist actions by the Koreans – and are sure that the fact that they’re fighting for their home evens the score despite their lack of numbers and limited weapons. It’s difficult not to wonder if the film may be using the idea that a Western audience will back Americans resisting invaders, to show why the US had such problems in Iraq and Afghanistan with ‘insurgents’. There’s definitely an edge of that to the movie – is it terrorism only if we don’t believe in the objectives? – but even so, it’s not enough to save it.
The movie also looks okay on Blu-ray and there are some passable special features, but like the movie itself, there’s nothing particularly special about it.
Overall Verdict: This long-delayed remake is sadly not a triumph. Despite a few decent action scenes and an intriguing political edge, its slightly random feel make it a bit of a missed opportunity.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac