Dave White
Red Dawn Review

Dave's Rating:

0.5

All stupid on the Western front.

Once upon a time, a young Hollywood development executive who was born in the late '70s grew up watching 1984's Red Dawn -- the film about small-town teenagers engaging in giddy guerilla warfare with then-Soviet Russia -- over and over on cable TV when he wasn't outside playing "War" with his friends and using hockey sticks in place of toy guns. Then he got the smart idea to re-develop his studio's existing property (cheaper that way) into a film for right now. Then he got his way.

You can't really blame this green-lighter for anything more than not knowing much about recent U.S. history. Because stripped of the heightened, ginned-up, Cold War shriekiness that permeated American life at the time of its original release and shown to impressionable '80s children, the original Red Dawn wasn't a toxically jingoistic Reagan-era exercise in thoughtlessness and xenophobia, it was just other kids playing "War." Seen through that lens, as an object with no other reason to exist, it's a lot of fun, even for rational people in search of a night of movie-slumming.

The same will probably hold true for young audiences watching this update. And that's fine. It's too dumb and badly made to get worked up over. So what if it makes the original look like Full Metal Jacket? There are kids with assault rifles, they fight the aliens (then: Russia; now: North Korea... with help from MORE RUSSIA, as though the script had been sent to Mitt Romney for a second pass and punch-up) and they win. They're teen ninjas and all they need is adrenaline to keep them going. Other flashpoints of empty meaning, emphasized for a hot second and then abandoned, the ones about ineffectual seated presidents and collaboration with enemies, corporate domination of American life and military reality versus civilian reality, all that stuff is just decoration.

There are brazenly illogical gun battles, talented young actors (Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, at least) wasting their time and horribly shot, confused action sequences that turn cinematography into the equivalent of shaking a camera like a snow globe; there are internment camps and Shepard Fairey-esque propaganda posters; there's revisionist Iraq War ideology and there are traitorous teenagers. It's a bowl of political Lucky Charms where you get to pick out the marshmallows you like best and eat them first right before you remind everybody how politics bore you.

But if it's bad movies that bore you, then steer clear. You're better off staying home and playing Call of Duty.

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