“Red Dawn,” written by Carl Ellsworth, Jeremy Passmore (screenplay), Kevin Reynolds and John Milius (1984 screenplay), directed by Dan Bradley, 114 minutes, rated PG-13.
You know you’re in trouble from the opening moments of Dan Bradley’s “Red Dawn” remake, when you’re subjected to a series of disjointed political soundbites and clips of talking heads, none of which seem to really have any connection. It just doesn’t make any sense, and it’s a pretty accurate forecast for what’s to come.
This actioner takes us to Spokane, Wash., where we meet the Eckert brothers. Jed (Chris Hemsworth) is a Marine just returning from Iraq, while Matt (Josh Peck) is a hotshot high school quarterback who has trouble following orders. Naturally, the two of them butt heads, constantly at odds over their differing personalities.
One morning after a big football game, Spokane is invaded out of the blue by North Korean paratroopers and military who have already infiltrated the country. This attack is on a national scale, not just in Spokane.
Why, exactly, has North Korea invaded the United States? It’s never explained. Somehow, Russia gets involved, too. Again, the reasoning is never explained. But the bad guys have invaded, and they have the upper hand.
The brothers retreat to safety, along with a handful of others who happen to hop on the bandwagon to the family’s cottage deep within the woods. The small group of rebellious youth, who adopt the name The Wolverines, proceed to take up arms, forming a militia under the guidance of Jed to defend Spokane, and in the grand scheme of things, the United States in its entirety.
“Red Dawn” has all the political know-how of the “G.I. Joe” cartoon, but instead of accepting that and making the movie for what it is – pure B-movie entertainment – the filmmakers want it to be taken seriously. Not many will, however, as we watch absurd scenarios unfold in a story with so many holes, it’s as though writers Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore were armed with a Gatling gun of their own.
There are a couple of positive notes about “Red Dawn”: the action is pretty solid, and it’s certainly not afraid to pull the trigger when it comes to killing off its lead characters, both young and old, lending the film an unpredictability and sense of peril that is rare in most PG-13 Hollywood blockbusters. Still, despite those points, and a convincing action hero turn from Hemsworth, there’s just too much ridiculousness here to look past.