views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Red Dawn (12A)
CFC Framestore
11th March 2013


Remakes. Everyone's got an opinion on them. Sometimes they work - Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Howard Ashman and Frank Oz's Little Shop of Horrors justified themselves - sometimes they don't. In a word, Arthur.

The original Red Dawn is a naff 80s film starring acting "legends" Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen. It's a film about a bunch of kids who end up trying to save the world (or at least, their home town) after the evil Soviet forces invade American soil in a move that was pig-headed and woefully dated even then. Inexplicably, the survival rate is quite high. I don't know about you, but if I was the leader of an evil invasion force, I'd have no difficulty in wiping out a bunch of teenage brats who didn't have any military training.

The remake trades the Soviets for the North Koreans, but beyond that, it's very similar indeed. Visually, it's more polished, albeit due to three decades' worth of improvements in technology rather than any tangible talent on the part of stuntman-turned-director Dan Bradley. Many of the scenes are staged in the same way but the real difference is in the tone - we suspect Bradley took it seriously, but it just feels like a parody. In fact, the reason for our second star is that many will enjoy it as a 'so bad it's good' film, akin to last year's unintentionally hilarious Taken 2.

When Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth, you are better than this) rallies the schoolkids - er, troops - including younger brother Matt Eckert (Josh Peck of Drake and Josh fame, who is still better than this) - you can either find the whole thing a big joke, or a terrifying piece of US propaganda to recruit slack-jawed simpletons into the military, while waving Charlton Heston's cold dead hands avec rifle, with a good dose of Uncle Sam-loving xenophobia mixed in. We choose to see Red Dawn as a parody of itself, to think otherwise will give you nightmares.

Writers Carl Ellsworth (the adept Disturbia and dull Red Eye) and Jeremy Passmore (nothing of note) pack the work with clichés. An interesting aside, the scripters of the original are credited here as screenwriters, an unusual move giving you an idea of just how beholden to the original it is. Anyway, the sacrifice of police officer Tom Eckert (Brett Cullen) and budding romance between Toni Walsh (Adrianne Palicki) and her BFF's boyfriend's older brother Jed are things painfully attached to the genre.

Still, it does it also manges to surprise. At one point, the 'serious' action is interrupted with some delightful product placement when Danny (Edwin Hodge) and Robert Kitner (Josh Hutcherson) find themselves in a Subway and raid it for turkey subs and a bucket of Pepsi. This scene perhaps exemplifies the ridiculousness of the entire film - did Subway pay the producers to be in Red Dawn? Or was it the other way round? Was the 'turkey' an intentional reference to the quality of the picture? It's hard to tell whether it's good or bad publicity. But it's very funny indeed, down to the camera close up of the bucket jiggling as the boys run off. Quality Goonies action.

Given Hemsworth has landed himself high profile roles in films like Thor, Avengers Assemble and Snow White and the Huntsmen, he really should fire his agent for getting him involved in this peculiar mess. But X-Man Halle Berry featured in both the brilliant Cloud Atlas and appalling Movie 43 this year, so maybe he got off lightly for a superhero.

There are adults in Red Dawn, but it does feel like one of those poorly thought out 'kids rule the world' affairs. Their ragtag group, the Wolverines, are oddly reminiscent of the Mallrats in Cloud 9's post-apocalyptic television series The Tribe. Maybe it's the down under/Channel 5 connection - both Hemsworth and Isabel Lucas (who plays Matt's girl-next-door girlfriend Erica Martin) are Summer Bay alumni.

Given Bradley's stunt coordinating history for Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films, and the Bourne series, you would think this would work on a purely spectacular level, but it doesn't. Still, if you can put up wih the politics and fancy a giggle, go see Red Dawn now. Because we can't see it staying in cinemas long, we have visions of the DVD appearing in a Poundland store near you soon.

Red Dawn was released in the UK on 15th March 2013.

Nearest tube station: Oxford Circus (Central, Bakerloo, Victoria)

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