By Bill Wine
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Here’s a reboot that richly deserves the boot.
Red Dawn is a remake of a 1984 action thriller from director John Milius about an invasion of Colorado by the Soviets and the group of high schoolers who organize and fight back. But in this new version, the Cold War resonance that accompanied and bolstered the original has all but disappeared.
RD2 was shot nearly three years ago and then shelved during a studio bankruptcy proceeding. During that stretch, a few of the youthful cast members landed showy roles that made them more familiar to movie audiences and a commercial decision was made about which country the invaders ought to be from.
The premise of the remake was to involve an invasion by Chinese soldiers. But it’s been changed to North Korean soldiers for a number of reasons, including the emergence of the Chinese market and the extensive censorship practiced there.
So was the film reshot? Not on your life. Instead, the Chinese soldiers were digitally edited into North Koreans by modifying their uniforms and flags.
Even ignoring the racist implications of that alteration, it is one of many wrongheaded decisions made in this drama about a clandestine invasion on American soil and the teen insurgency that it triggers.
Red Dawn is a hopelessly unconvincing hodgepodge of inept and laughable action sequences as the North Koreans invade Spokane, Washington and a group of teenagers turn themselves – pretty much instantly – into an effectively functioning guerrilla force of commandos taking on and holding off the occupying army.
Give me a break.
They’re led by a slightly older Iraq War veteran, a marine played by Chris Hemsworth (Thor, The Avengers), who whips them into shape as The Wolverines (an inspiration they get from their high school football team), and the instant warriors include Josh Peck, Adrianne Palicki, Connor Cruise, Isabel Lucas, and The Hunger Games’ Josh Hutcherson.
Hemsworth has considerable leading-man presence, but the rest of the young ensemble are individually and collectively unpersuasive, although it’s hardly their fault. Blame the script by Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore, based on the original script by Milius and Kevin Reynolds. And blame the direction.
Shot in shaky-cam mode as if only a swirling camera could convey the chaos of battle – or perhaps because no one bothered to budget for a tripod — it features in scene after scene after scene the kind of laughably amateurish gunplay in which hundreds of bullets miraculously miss the good-guy marksmen while they fire away at will.
Director Don Bradley, a second unit director and stunt coordinator making his directorial debut, maintains a breakneck pace, as if to remind us that, when skating over thin ice, speed is of the essence, never more so than in an Ill-conceived, poorly executed, abruptly ended, and regrettably resuscitated boondoggle.
So we’ll invade 1-1/2 stars out of 4 for a silly, sorry, and soggy saga. You won’t buy a second of Red Dawn the Second.