Review: Red Dawn

I want to make a couple of things clear right up front with you dear reader. First, Red Dawn is in no way, shape, or form a good movie. By almost any measure it is, in fact, a pretty terrible movie. Second, by no means would I recommend any of you spend your hard earned money to see it. If you choose to ignore this advice I will not be held responsible for your loss of $10 and 95 minutes. Third, I was in an emotionally damaged state when I saw this film having just had to put my beloved dog down. As such, my brain was probably not in a trustworthy state. Please keep all of these disclaimers in mind now when I tell you that despite all of its many, MANY, plot holes, absurdities, and general foolishness, I enjoyed the crap out of Red Dawn. There are really only four things you need to know about the “plot” of Red Dawn:

1. Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth) is home in Spokane on leave from his duty with the Marines; 2. The North Koreans (all 24 million of them) attack and invade the United States, knocking out all of our communications and (apparently) rendering our military incapacitated; 3. Jed and his brother Matt (Josh Peck), along with a group of untrained teenagers, form a resistance group known as the Wolverines who fight back against the insurgents who have taken over their town; 4. Despite being completely new to this whole “warfare” thing, the Wolverines cause serious problems for the North Koreans and eventually force a major confrontation that will decide the fate of our country.

And that is all.

If I were to turn my appraisal of Red Dawn into a pros and cons list, the cons would FAR outnumber the pros. It’s an absolute mess, really. It isn’t enough that the premise itself is ludicrous. The idea that the North Koreans would invade and find some level of success in taking over this country is absurd. Nuke us, maybe. Engage in biological warfare, maybe. But outright invade and take over? Not so much. Byond that, though, the rest of the plot is rife with holes to the point that you actually find yourself surprised in the few instances when it manages to string together two consecutive scenes that sort of make sense. It is constantly jumping from one place to the next and you’re just supposed to fill in the gaps on your own. The dialogue is painfully cliché and cheesy and most of the time it is delivered in a manner more befitting a Disney channel pilot than a major motion picture (the budget for Red Dawn was $65 million by the way). Several of the actors are incredibly bad and while some of that can be chalked up to inexperience (Josh Peck) or lack of talent (Connor Cruise), I know some of these performers are capable of more than what they exhibit in Red Dawn (Adrianne Palicki). Some of the blame for this can probably be pinned on the haphazard way in which this film was edited after the fact (it’s been sitting on a shelf for almost three years) and some should be aimed at first time (and probably last time) director Dan Bradley whose entire career has been dedicated to stunt work (so you know it was in good hands!). The tone of Red Dawn constantly fluctuates between campy and overly serious, rendering the film completely devoid of an identity. And if all of that wasn’t enough, the movie comes to a conclusion with all of the precision of a bad Saturday Night Live bit at the end of the show and none of the charm.

All of these missteps (and a dozen more that I don’t have time to note) should make Red Dawn an utter disaster. But it does have two things going for it. One, it’s got Chris Hemsworth and at the end of the day, if you have Chris Hemsworth, you’re not completely worthless. This is pre-Thor Hemsworth and he’s definitely a little rough around the acting edges but that doesn’t keep him from being a presence on the screen. He brings sincerity to his role and he does his best to sell his (terrible) movie to you and because of this, he makes what would be an unwatchable movie at least partially watchable. Two, in spite of all of the screw-ups, missteps, and “How in the world did they expect us to buy this?!” moments that plague Red Dawn, it is still, at the end of the day, entertaining. Not entertaining enough to make it good or even overly enjoyable, but enough to make the theater experience relatively fun. It is very much an 80s movie and with an experienced filmmaker at the helm, it might have been made to play like an 80s action movie homage which probably would have worked quite well. As it stands, it doesn’t go nearly far enough into the realm of the over the top ridiculousness that makes films like The Expendables and Taken so much fun and so worthwhile. But for me, it was entertaining enough to stick with it and I’m only slightly ashamed to admit that when Red Dawn makes its way to HBO, I’ll probably watch it again…and again.

Red Dawn Director: Dan Bradley Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki Rated: PG-13 (lots of violence, language including the big one to ensure that all-important PG-13) Recommended For: Teenagers who don't know any better. And me, apparently.