Directed by: Dan Bradley
Written by: Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore (screenplay), Kevin Reynolds (story)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson and Adrianne Palicki
Categorizing the remake of Red Dawn as a mindless action movie is a mistake. Typically, those modern American action films embed a sense of macho honor and patriotism as a backdrop, not as a front-and-center subject. Red Dawn avoids this, instead opting to adopt a philosophy of mindlessness, creating a space where the call of duty is all that matters and the foreign and domestic political spheres are nonexistent.
The original version of this story rose to prominence in 1984, at the height of Reagan and in the final decade of the Cold War. Its premise, Soviet forces invading America and a small group of Colorado high schoolers engaging in guerrilla warfare against them in their town, fed off of paranoia. In this updated version it’s the North Koreans invading the state of Washington, but the adolescent insurgents fighting for freedom and democracy are still very much in tact.
In this movie, America and North Korea exist not as countries but vague ideologies. The movie opens with a montage of news snippets explaining the collapse of many of the European economies. It then goes innocently to a high school football team, where the sibling duo (Chris Hemsworth and Josh Peck) are introduced as typical young male archetypes. They are each assigned a woman in this brief 15 minute sequence before the invasion begins, so that there can be some semblance of a love interest in between shoot-outs
For the most part, Red Dawn is just a series of angry, destructive action set pieces. Director Dan Bradley makes his feature debut with this movie, but has served as a stunt coordinator on more than 100 features, including three of the Bourne movies. That really shows in the urgency and energy in many of these intense sequences, and the movie, if nothing else, is a concise and kinetic package.
It’s the implication of the bullets and explosions that rings louder than the efficiency they were made with, though. This movie preys on xenophobic paranoia and is startlingly upfront about it. What’s even more troubling is the ease with which one country is traded for another. China was initially supposed to be the invading force, and if the filmmakers really wanted to find a modern day Soviet equivalent, that really would have been the “better” choice.
Potentially lucrative Chinese box office markets have fleshed out the true hypocrisy of this enterprise, though. Opting in the North Koreans somehow makes this even more delusional, ignoring any semblance of political understanding in favor of preying on a collective fear of the other. It’s mostly Hollister models taking up arms and taking back their country, making sure to plug Subway right alongside the American Dream. It would be laughable if it weren’t done with such a straight, angry face.