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MANILA, Philippines - In the new iteration of "Red Dawn," we get a pack of kids (they are supposedly high schoolers, but yeesh most of them look much older) waging a protracted guerrilla war against a North Korean invasion.
I won’t bother comparing this flick with its original '80s version. Suffice to say they’ve replaced Russians with Koreans — though Russians do show up, too — and they make a film we’ve seen before.
That is the fact of the matter, even if you never saw the original movie. If you have seen any action movies, then you know where each and every single scene here is going. There is absolutely nothing here that you cannot predict.
We open with a scene of younger brother Matt (Josh Peck) on the football field. He’s the hotshot quarterback who doesn’t know how to be a team player. Coach tells him to run a play, but he doesn’t listen and goes off for himself. Alright so we know his character arc, right?
Next, after the game, we are introduced to his hot girlfriend, and it’s pretty clear what her purpose will be. We meet Chris Hemsworth’s Jed, older brother back from a tour of duty in Iraq. And — surprise, surprise — the brothers have a conflicted relationship. We know where that conflict goes.
The movie dips into a lot of melodramatic moments, some involving staring out into the distance with teary eyes, hashing out family issues as the world around them is invaded and controlled by an enemy force. Fine, fine.
The North Koreans aren’t particularly brutal here. They seek to control and reprogram the population, if only it weren’t for these pesky kids who keep blowing things up and spray-painting "Wolverines!" all over town.
The problem that I — and I am sure most people — had with "Red Dawn" was its politics. It serves as a rallying cry for strengthening the military-industrial complex, for allowing people to carry firearms, and it breeds paranoia.
And as for its racial politics, well, if you aren’t white, you might not want to be around for the invasion. Further, its approach to geo-politics is frighteningly vapid, lacking any kind of nuance or analytic view. Then again, what am I doing expecting such a thing, right? It’s a movie about a supposed invasion and how kids fight through it.
So I thought, what if I could separate the really shoddy politics and subtexts from this film, and enjoy whatever was happening onscreen?
I imagined this not as a film set in a near future of the real world, but as alternate history, as fantasy, as if I were watching something like "Hunger Games" or "Battle Royale," except that instead of kids wasting each other, they were wasting enemy soldiers.
And wonder of wonders, I had a heck of a good time.
While the time periods and other details are problematic — there are training montages and combat montages, but they never give us a sense of how much time has passed, but suddenly the North Koreans have locked down the city and established prisons while the Wolverines are all suddenly badass fighters — the movie does a good job of stringing together a series of good action sequences.
The first big sequence with the paratroopers filling the skies and the Americans gawking on their lawns is impressive. It goes over the top a bit with large unnecessary plane explosions in that sequence, but in most of the other scenes we get some good, old-fashioned gunplay.
The action is very reminiscent of '80s action flicks, and I found that generally fun to watch.
Of course, the gun fighting is far from realistic, but then how many Hollywood action movies go for realistic anyway, right? More fun to watch are some of the evade and escape sequences. It might just be me, but I like seeing how guerrilla tactics might be employed in contemporary urban settings, and in these scenes there is quite a bit of flair.
The winding down of the film and the annoying attempts to shock and traumatize us are unfortunately telegraphed. And where it might be successful in staging entertaining action set-pieces, it struggles to string together emotional moments.
It’s a credit to Chris Hemsworth and his charisma that he comes off as convincing as leader of the resistance. Peck’s got chops too, though he is stuck being the mopey annoying brother, which just leaves us not liking him very much.
The women in the film are given much less to do. Sure, they carry around guns and get to fire off rocket launchers, but they are usually just there to push forward their boys’ romantic concerns.
Watch the trailer here:
All in all, "Red Dawn" is a fun bad movie. It is definitely a bad flick, but it does have some good action scenes and you can have fun with it.
It’s exciting, and scene-by-scene it does have a good pace. However, once you start thinking of logic — meaning, politics — then it just goes off the rail.
It is one of those Rah-Rah-America! flicks, and badly so. If you’re looking for mindless entertainment though, this packs quite a punch. - Rappler.com
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