Red Dawn Review By Adam
Poor ol’ Chris Hemsworth. I hope that Mr Hemsworth is not the kind of guy who counts his chickens before they hatch, because despite his recent (and much deserved) meteoric ascension in Hollywood (Thor and The Avengers), Mr Hemsworth could have been a big fish sooner. Much sooner. See, 2009 was meant to be the year of Hemsworth. He got lead roles in two big films: the Joss Whedon scripted The Cabin in the Woods and the remake of 1980’s actioner Red Dawn. Pretty good for a guy that used to star on Aussie soapie Home and Away. Problem is that neither of his films saw the light of day until 2012. This was due to the financial problems of Hollywood studio MGM. For the great Cabin this was a damn shame, but the same can’t be said for Red Dawn. This pointless remake has suffered one of the most beleaguered productions in recent memory. And, unfortunately, the end product is not indicative of the effort and money put in. But at least Red Dawnhas one thing: a star turn by (drum roll, please) Chris Hemsworth.
Set in Spokane, Washington, Red Dawn follows brothers Jed (Chris Hemsworth) and Matt (Josh Peck) Eckert, two atypical all-American boys. Jed has just come back from serving his country in the marines and Matt is the quarterback of the local football team. Their reunion is cut short when their sleepy town is infiltrated by a hostile force: the North Korean army. Narrowly escaping capture, the boys retreat to the woods and forge a ramshackle group of guerrilla terrorists. Now, under Jed’s leadership, this motley group of teenage survivors (now named ‘The Wolverines’ in honour of the local football team) launch an offensive on the invaders, hoping to reclaim their homeland.
On paper, this Red Dawn should work. It features a cast of hot young things (Isabel Lucas, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki), a promising director in Dan Bradley (the man responsible for the stunts in the Bourne series) and a red blooded (if juvenilely jingoistic) action concept: the invasion of home soil. Only one of the aforementioned details survives in the end product – the initial invasion creates palpable suspense. The much touted cast is a bust – except for Hemsworth, the rest of the cast fail to register, with some members being flat-out bad. And first time director Dan Bradley’s much touted action skills get lost in a tornado of editing that stifles the coherency of proceedings.
Red Dawn’s woes were not only financial. The original foes of the piece were not the North Koreans but, in fact, the Chinese. But in post production, producers realised that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to demonise one of the world’s most lucrative film markets (no shit). A bit of reshooting, drastic editing and CGI assistance later and… voilà! You have an enemy that no-one likes (thankfully movie buff Kim Jong Ill wasn’t around to retaliate). The bi-product of this rampant meddling is a serious loss in plot momentum and coherency – this film feels seriously truncated.
Financial miscalculations are not the only poor choices in Red Dawn: Josh Peck is a woefully miscast lead. Peck used to be the token fat kid in Nickelodeon series (Drake & Josh) and kids’ films (Max Keeble’s Big Move ), but now he lost all the weight, and with it new roles beckon. Peck, however, is completely ineffectual in this. Instead of a resilient and brave quarterback, his Matt looks like a moronic, greasy henchman from HBO’s The Sopranos. It doesn’t help that Matt is a selfish, wimpish character who endangers others with his illogical behaviour. Peck’s weakness as an actor is no more apparent than when he (miserably) tries to duplicate a speech given by his older brother Jed (Hemsworth) – I haven’t seen an actor fail to step up to plate this bad since Orlando Bloom tried to emulate Liam Neeson in Kingdom of Heaven. ‘Rise a knight!’ No, Orlando. No.
Peck’s love interest is played by the ever-underwhelming Isabel Lucas, who might just be the worst actress of her generation. Her line readings (not acting, she is incapable) are so, so bad that it seems she isn’t thinking about her character’s motivations but instead about what she is not going to eat next. Lucas is the embodiment of looks overriding talent, which confuses me as she is built like a prisoner of war and the most developed part of her body is her eyebrows. I’m taking a punt but I think she should keep the night of the Razzie awards free. Despite making it big lately, Josh Hutcherson (aka Peeta-phile from The Hunger Games) is completely wasted in this. A scene where he fires an oversize machine gun while wearing a furry hat and exclaims ‘Wolverines!’ made me piss my pants in laughter –it’s the tipping point of the film. Tom Cruise’s son, Conner, flounders his way through this as the dweebiest member of the Wolverines. And while he is not bad, it would appear that he has given up the family profession, as he has not made another film since.
It’s not all bad news on the acting front. Chris Hemsworth makes a viable action lead, so much so that he almost salvages the film. Almost. His blend of conviction and masculinity brings the film to life, but every time he rouses us, we cut back to his mumbling, simpleton brother and the goodwill is lost. If Dawn achieves anything, it’s that it adds fuel to notion of Hemsworth as a legitimate action star. Someone give this guy his own Rambo-esque franchise already.
I imagine that this version of Red Dawn may find its target audience of home video, as I’m sure it will ignite passion in patriots/racists (read: rednecks) who think that a ‘yellow invasion’ is right around the corner. While the film itself does little to be outwardly racist or culturally insensitive (unless you consider undercooking your villains to be an overt move), it is quite shocking in the veracity with which it shows these invaders being dispatched. The enemy are simple a faceless entity that must be wiped out: our home, our rules, it would seem. If your film choices are dictated by what is in the $2 pile at Blockbuster (do rednecks download movies?), I imagine this kind of easily justified pro-war sentiment would go down a treat, especially with a bottle of cheap whiskey, but for the rest of us this is a misfire. Note: the divide in the quality of the cast can be seen in their post-Red Dawn projects. Hemsworth is making films with Ron Howard and Edward Zwick. Peck is staring in Battle of the Year, a film about a fucking b-boy crew, starring the rancid piece of shit that is Chris Brown. Check out the ridiculous trailer below.