G-S-T Review…Red Dawn

Here we are again with a cult classic which has been subjected to a remake almost three decades later.  If you were a child of the 80’s or at least a fan of 80’s movies, then you have probably seen Red Dawn (1984).  That film was rife with actors on their way to stardom.  Fast forward to 2012 and here we are with a more modern version of the movie modified to fit the times.  Rather than Russia invading the U.S. we have North Korea.  There are a myriad of other changes in an effort to modernize the film and cater to the shorter attention span crowd of our society today.  Does Red Dawn (2012) live up to the original…keep reading to find out.

In this 2012 version of Red Dawn we have soldiers invading the United States in a seemingly surprise attack.  There are armored vehicles roaming the streets completely unopposed.  The basic premise of the film is unchanged, as are most of the names of the main characters.  The primary focus is on a group of teenagers who decide to fight to save their town.  This group is led by Jed Eckert, a marine on leave, who happens to be in town for the invasion. Jed and his brother Matt lead the Wolverines, with the help of other teenagers from their town.  In this David and Goliath film most events seem marginally believable.  The concept as a whole is a little far-fetched, but it’s exciting to watch enthusiastic teenagers attempt to defend this great nation.  As a whole, if you can suspend disbelief, the movie is somewhat enjoyable.

Chris Hemsworth (Thor, The Avengers) is the leading man in this film, playing Jed Eckert.  Chris does as well as he can considering the script.  He’s been a leading man before and does well in this role.  Josh Peck (Ice Age: The Meltdown, Ice Age Continental Drift) plays Jed’s younger brother Matt.  It’s hard to tell if Josh’s character was supposed to be portrayed as annoying, but that’s the vibe that exudes from this character.  Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are All Right, The Hunger Games) plays Robert who starts off a little nervous, but goes through a major character arc over the course of the film.  Josh was one of the better actors amongst those who call themselves Wolverines.  Adrianne Palicki (Women in Trouble, Legion) plays Toni, who ends up having chemistry with Jed.  She does a good job in her role and is actually one of the better actresses in the film.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Losers, The Possession) plays Col. Andy Tanner and does a fine job.  While he does not appear until later in the film, he has some great lines and is quite enjoyable to watch.  He portrays a smug confidence that works well in this film.  Brett Cullen (Ghost Rider, The Dark Knight Rises) plays Tom Eckert, the father of Jed and Matt.  Even though he wasn’t in the film for long he put a lot of effort into his part.  Will Yun Lee (Elektra, Total Recall) plays Captain Lo of the North Korean invading military.  Will is quite believable in his role and plays an unflinching, straight faced leader.  Matt Gerald (Avatar, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) plays Hodges, a Marine under Col. Andy Tanner’s command.  His role is obnoxious but funny and Matt does a good job pulling it off and making his part believable.

Directing a remake of a cult classic that is almost three decades old is a huge undertaking by itself.  Add that to the pressure of a directorial debut and you have Dan Bradley.  Dan has been the stunt coordinator and/or performed the stunts himself for more than 100 movies.  He’s not new to the Hollywood scene by any means.  But, being a first time director is still a nerve-racking proposition.  Having experience with stunts in your back pocket for a movie like this definitely does not hurt.  There were definitely a lot of stunts in the movie and they all seemed believable.  It’s hard to tell where things went wrong, but Red Dawn just doesn’t mesh well.  You can’t pin all of the issues on the director.  But, for having a much larger budget than the original, this Red Dawn remake seems to fall flat.

When writers are given the green light to work on a screenplay you wonder what liberties they are afforded.  Well, with Red Dawn they were afforded quite a few liberties.  Now, any time you remake a movie that is almost three decades old there are bound to be a number of changes.  To the writers’ credit there were some changes for the better.  There were also some changes that were just ridiculous and laughable.  Carl Ellsworth (Red Eye, Disturbia) and Jeremy Passmore (Special, The Cleaner) cobbled together this screenplay as a team.  Carl has a respectable number of decent movie credits under his belt as a writer.  While Jeremy only has a handful of titles, mostly short films.  The movie had some shortcomings, but it’s really hard to tell if it was the screenplay, the actors or the directing.

G-S-T RULING:

If you are a fan of Red Dawn (1984) then you will probably see this movie regardless of any negative comments regarding the film.  Some of the changes from the original were necessary, while others might leave you scratching your head.  If you take the movie on its own merit, without comparing it to the original, the movie is somewhat enjoyable.  Regardless of whether or not you have seen the original, Red Dawn (2012) does not fire on all cylinders.  That could explain why the movie was on the shelf for two years and the release date kept getting pushed back.  There are enough recognizable faces in the film, as well as a few decent trailers, to garner a decent box office turnout.  It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not a great movie either.  The movie lies somewhere in the middle, sitting at a breakeven point for a box office cash grab.

G-S-Talking Point:  Red Dawn held so much potential, but really underperformed.  What do you think?  Further, what is your least favorite movie remake of all time?