Red Dawn isn’t a new, crimson dish soap. It’s not a new anything. It’s an update of John Milius’ classic bad movie from 1984. Back then, the Evil Empire was the Soviet Union, the Gipper was in the White House and Americans went to bed every night fearing an invasion by the powerful Nicaraguan and Cuban armies coming up from Mexico disguised as migrant workers.

Wait. What?

Fast forward over 25 years and . . .

The United States has been invaded yet again by the forces of evil. After War of the Worlds, you’d think they’d know better, but they keep on coming. The Soviet Union is no more, which may be good for Eastern Europeans but bad for Hollywood. Hollywood needs villains, especially foreign villains, and the USSR was a great villain. But there’s still a Russia, and apparently the Russkies still want us all dead. I can’t imagine why, unless it’s the quality of our movies that pisses them off. Anyway, the Russians have found a mighty and frightening new ally:

North Korea.

Stop laughing.

Red Dawn focuses on a group of Spokane high school students led by a gen-u-wine Marine recently returned from the sandbox as they try to defend the 509 from the oppressive yoke of the entire North Korean army. The teenage resistance group calls themselves “Wolverines,” commemorating their bad football team which happily has played its last game for a long, long time.

The writers of the new Red Dawn had initially cast China, not North Korea, as the new Yellow Peril. Then the producers figured out that (1) the PRC would never blow up Wal-Mart because then there’d be nobody left to sell all that cheap Chinese crap, (2) the US owes China a ton of moolah and an invasion would violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and finally (3) there’s no profit in alienating a market a of 1.3 billion potential movie goers with pockets full of yuan who are so gullible that they actually believe that a Buick is a status symbol.

What was the director to do? The movie was already in the can and there was no way he could pass off a bunch of Asian actors as Cubans with narrow eyes and bad haircuts. Then he had a brainstorm, or perhaps it was a cerebrovascular accident. The call went out to the CGI boys to change all the logos from Red Chinese to North Korean and — presto change-o — the new Red Dawn was rebuilt on a premise every bit as absurd as the first one.

All movies depend to some extent on the suspension of disbelief. In the case of Red Dawn, it’s more a slurry than a suspension. But still, the film has many enjoyable moments, especially when the North Korean Army blows up huge swathes of Spokane in an effort to destroy our shopping malls. Haven’t we all felt that way, especially around the holidays?

The battle scenes are really good, especially the initial invasion where a million North Korean paratroopers swarm over Spokane in the middle of the day like uninvited beer-loving party crashers at a backyard barbecue. Epic.

And where was the American military while the enemy airborne was fluttering down like so many polynoses? Why, our defenses and communications had been disabled by a massive EMP that fried the grid and made our nukes as ineffective as a flaccid member. Movie saved! If the writers couldn’t find a way to neutralize the largest nuclear force on earth, they would have had to change the name of the film from Red Dawn to Nuclear Winter.

Ah, but the fiendishly clever North Koreans have a magical iPhone that enables them to communicate with each other like overactive teenagers while our powerless boys are reduced to sending smoke signals and beating on tom-toms. The quest to capture the magic box is a pivotal plot device. I won’t go any further because I don’t want to ruin it for you.

What made the original movie a “classic” was its great cast. Future stars like Patrick Swayze, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen and Jennifer Grey lit up the screen. Acting veterans like Oscar-winner Ben Johnson, Powers Boothe, Harry Dean Stanton and William Smith lent gravitas to what was really just a piece of fluff. And then there was Ron O’Neal’s performance as Col. Bella, the Cuban commander with a heart of gold. Only Col. Bella could line up and execute a bunch of American townies, then write a touching letter home to the wife. Brilliant.

The current cast wasn’t quite as well prepared. Okay, Chris Hemsworth as Jed Eckert is sufficiently studly and has star quality. Josh Peck is Matty, Jed’s selfish, obnoxious twit of a younger brother and the quarterback of the high school football team. Initially, I wanted to smack him around and steal his lunch money. Later, his act wore so thin that actually had me rooting for the Koreans.

Which didn’t last long since Will Yun Lee, as Col. Cho, has little to do except look inscrutably mean. Lee is as wooden as the stock of an old Winchester, but he does get to flash a neat little Makarov PM. The gun showed more personality.

So what’s in it for us? Of course there are guns. Lots of guns. Some of which don’t really exist. There are certainly AKs galore, including 47s, 74s, AKMs and AKMS’s. Most of them have one or more unusual features, such as odd muzzle devices, stocks or furniture, that don’t belong on the models shown. This didn’t bother me in the least. Whether a shooter is from Arkansas or Pyongyang, modifying firearms is half the fun of owning them. In fact, I’m pretty sure that “Kim” actually means “Bubba” in Korean.

I said lots of guns and I meant it. Tec-9s? We got ‘em. Mac-10s? Yeah, them too. Phased plasma rifles in the 40 watt range? Hey, just what you see, pal. Oh, there’s the obligatory “hot chicks rocking their RPGs” scene, which is a plus in any action movie. Hell, a scene like that would have made Brokeback Mountain almost watchable. There’s also plenty of handguns a-blazing. There’s a scoped Remington 700 too, because, well, there’s always a scoped Remmy somewhere. It’s America, ain’t it?

The best of all the guns – best by far — was an M134 Minigun mounted on the roof of an absolutely cherry Mustang. I guess paying for all that gas isn’t much of a problem during an armed invasion. I’m thinking that the Minigun is an aftermarket part that Ford should adopt as its own. Give the people 5.8 liters of supercharged V8 power and six smoking barrels, and Ford can count on so much business they could pay back all the bailout money for the whole auto industry, with enough left over to bail out the US Treasury. Just don’t tell Hyundai, ‘cause they’ll do it first.

Wolverines!

SPECIFICATIONS

Model:             Red Dawn
Caliber:           Low
Length:            114 minutes
Action:             Plenty
Finish:             Not soon enough
Price:               About $30 with popcorn and a soda

RATINGS (out of five stars):

Style * * *
The battle scenes look slick, the actors not so much. Loved the Nork unis, though. Gilbert & Sullivan would approve.

Reliability * * *
Hews fairly closely to the original, except there’s a new location, a new enemy, Spokane has a mealy-mouthed black mayor instead of that the mealy-mouthed white mayor in the original and the guns are cooler. Other than those things, you know the plot better than the writers and the lines better than the actors.

OVERALL RATING * * 1/2
Long on action – but not long enough – short on plot or logic. It’s a time waster.

66 Responses to Movie Review: Red Dawn Redux

  1. I haven’t seen the new one. Figured it would be a video or cable movie at best. I grew up with the original. The concept was a cool one for me as 13yo. It was Ron O’Neal as Col. Bella not Ron Glass. Ron Glass had just finished Barney Miller. How’s that for useless trivia?

  2. I saw the movie and there were some great scenes. I love the scenes were the one kid said isn’t this a great gun and the marine on leave said only if you know nothing about guns 🙂 Then shot the thing at a tree doing very little damage. There are many others little gems in this movie. I do like the fact the kept a lot of the same flow but changed it enough that you couldn’t predict the next scene as you weren’t sure what was next. Although at the end of the movie you felt they had included most of the most memorial scenes from the 1st movie. You are right Will Yun Lee was more a bit part did he have scene’s cut because of the cost of making him North Koren from Chines? The setting changes were interesting. In the first movie all the fighting was done outside of town effecting the supply lines. This movie was largely all about urban warfare. Yes there was some stuff happening outside the city in the mountains but a bulk of the fighting happen inside the city itself.

    Thanks
    Robert

    • Best line:

      Daryl and Robert are searching for the magic box. Daryl is looking under the sofa.

      Robert: They’re not gonna keep their uber box in the freaking couch.
      Daryl Jenkins: How do you know?
      Robert: It’s vital piece of military equipment, not your porn stash.

      The rest of the movie wasn’t quite as intellectual.

    • In the first movie all the fighting was done outside of town effecting the supply lines. This movie was largely all about urban warfare.

      I guess it’s cheaper to build a set than a forest.

    • I still can’t get over the subtle new subtext that was non-existant in the first movie – that is, thank God you had a member of the military there to show you how to defend you homeland, otherwise you’d just be simpering POWs by now.
      That is not to say that having any military, ex or otherwise, wouldn’t be an enormous advantage, its just that the magic of the first movie is that of ordinary citizens digging deeply inside themselves and touching something at the core of being American – the citizen patriot, a militiaman, fighting alone, against a professional military to win back his freedom. The addition of the ex-military character undermines that grand struggle, story-wise.

  3. I will pass on the movie.
    As for Ford, I don’t think they participated in the Bail out money so they should keep the money for themselves.

  4. Nice review, but it looks like you inadvertently added a word to this sentence, “It’s an update of John Milius’ classic bad movie from 1984.”

    Fixed.

    • You laugh? If I tell Dear Leader you’ll be laughing out of the other side of your face, imperialist swine.

      Psssst…. Just between the two of us, I’m still laughing. Tell no one or I’ll be banned from every delicatessen in New York City.

    • I agree….all of the pussified critics hate it because they cannot stand for regular citizens with firearms to do something worthwhile or heroic.

      Not to pic knits, but NK only took over the Pacific Northwest in the movie. They said Russia was under the control of ultra-nationalist and took over the East Coast. The vast majority of the US was not occupied. Just going by the movie dialogue.

      Thought the movie had some good action scenes and never was boring. Saw reviews saying it was too patriotic. They must of have been Ocuppy protestors given free movie passes. The little brother was a terrible casting decision I agree.

  5. The TTAG review was better than the movie!

    I agree with Robert that the movie does have some jems, and I recommend buying reduced price Cosco tickets to help with lowering expectations. This movie isn’t worth $11.50 a pop, unless you have an under developed social life.

  6. Redbox… maybe?

    Great review. But one question.

    Arent our military computers and weapons supposed to be insulated from EMP? At least thats what they want us to think.

    • There was a lot of talk about it, but not much action on that. If you saw the show, Jericho, you saw a laptop in the hands of Robert Hawkins that’s hardened against EMP, but you can probably pick one up for a lot less than the government would pay.

    • Arent our military computers and weapons supposed to be insulated from EMP?At least thats what they want us to think.

      Maybe, but they’re not Korean proof. Or at least that’s what the producers want us to think.

  7. They got so many things wrong about Washington in the movie, now I’m from the “wetside” around Seattle, and Spokane is in the “dry side” but I’ve spent plenty of time in the Lilac City and the Idaho panhandle

    First off all the forests are wrong, not a single ponderosa pine in sight. spokane landmarks like Riverside Park are missing from the movie, even the above city shots don’t feature spokane.

    plus not a single mention of Fairchild AFB is in the movie, despite being a rather sizable military installation. and the part where the marines link up with the wolverines bothers me, Air Force SERE operators would make sense, but this movie left sense at the ticket box.

    Where can I apply to be a consultant for these things?

    • Dont bother. Hollywood consultants that want to see things done right frequently quit and/or are fired.

      Perfect example, ABCs series “Trauma” was a horrible peice of garbage that did a terrible diservice to me and my brother/sister EMS proffesionals. They went through multiple advisors only to wind up being cancled. Many EMS agencies including Memphis Fire Dept Deputy Chief Gary Ludwig sent complaints to the network to fix for accuracy or cancel it.

    • Erik, since the movie is about North Korea kicking US butt, I’m not surprised that the producers never heard of a Ponderosa Pine. They probably think it has something to do with Lorne Greene.

  8. “the USSR was a great villain.”

    That is great! Absolutely correct! I worked with the Soviets in the 1980s and they all absolutely hated the movie Red Dawn. I think it was on the most hated list with Soviets. That made me like it! I would razz them all the time about Red Dawn, a movie that I actually didn’t like much but it was good because they hated it. I met a Soviet, now Russian, that I knew back then a couple of years ago and he asked me if I missed the Cold War. I had to think a bit but replied yes, I did. You were the best enemies this country every had! Really, I never worried an instant that they would rain hell on us even when Reagan turned up the heat. Remember that? The Doomsday Clock and all? Somewhere in my attic I have an anti-American poster I bought in Leningrad that is about Star Wars. It is really good! They were so afraid of Star Wars! Some Russians say that is what brought the Soviet Union down. When I bought it a Soviet asked me if I wouldn’t be arrested if the border guard (their term) caught me with it. I remember I replied that I hope so. It would be a great 1st Amendment law suit! He was totally confused. Well I guess that they still don’t have free speech in Russia when you consider the Pussy Riot incident.

    The Soviets were a strange but sane people. Well most of them anyway. I would read these articles how the CIA estimates that… I would wonder what the hell they were talking about. Had they ever been there? Nothing worked. I mean the elevators in the hotels didn’t work let alone all the tanks stacked up in Eastern Europe. Lots and lots of stories! Wow! It’s all history now.

    • The Russian guy I lived with as an undergraduate always told me they hated James Bond movies the most because he could use a small pistol to kill hundreds of them at once and stop a tank too. He also said the Russian in Hollywood movies was very poorly translated. Sometimes he would tell us what was actually being said and it rarely ever resembled what the subtitles said. It was a fun game when drinking and watching bad movies on cable. He also said in Russia that Rocky movie ends right after Ivan Drago knocks Rocky to the mat the first time, but I think he was kidding about that.

      • Yes, some people in Russia don’t like old James Bond movies because Soviets/Russians were portrayed as a kind of disposable villain cannon fodder there, faceless and soulless and dying by the hundreds in hero’s wake – much like stormtroopers in Star Wars.

        And, yes, what passes as Russian in most Hollywood movies, especially pre-2000, is usually hilariously wrong or malformed. The original “Red Dawn” is pretty hilarious in that respect, too – remember that scene where Russian soldiers try to read the English sign and get it all wrong? If you know Russian, then what the guy actually says and what the English subtitles say he says is about as different as the subtitles and the sign.

        On the other hand, we did see Rocky in full.

    • I’m Russian, and I actually like (the original) Red Dawn.

      It’s a movie type that we Russians very familiar with: an action move about underground, grassroots guerrilla resistance of local populace against an invading and occupying foreign force. It’s actually an idea deeply ingrained in our culture since it’s what actually happened during WW2 on areas occupied by German forces; Belarus was especially famous for it. Consequently, we also have many movies about this, though they understandably mainly focus on dramatized but still real-world events of WW2 – or, when fictional, still use the setting.

      USA, obviously, doesn’t have a similar real-world experience, so you guys had to improvise with the invasion, but it’s still all very recognizable, and has all the same clichés – few poorly armed and trained but brave locals against many soldiers of the enemy, revenge for the death of loved ones, betrayal and punishment, sacrifice and its recognition.

      And what do I care if the invaders were supposedly Soviet? They are still invaders. Ever since WW2, the notion of “defensive war” has had a very special place in Russian psyche, and government propaganda has been pushing it heavily in Soviet times, so in most cases we can’t help but root for the guy defending his homestead. Some say that during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, this was one of the major factors that caused low morale among Soviet troops – since childhood they were indoctrinated as potential soldiers in a defensive war against US/NATO invasion; to find themselves on foreign soil, fighting against people who very obviously and vocally didn’t want to see them there and considered them aggressors, was contrary to that indoctrination

  9. I agree Ralph

    Loved the original in the 80s. But when liberal Hollyweird makes peace with th4e chicoms and edits Mao’s army out of the movie to make money I wont watch it nor I had much wanting too. The plot way too thin the NK air force fields alot of planes but its a wide range from MiG-17s to a handful of newer MiG-29s doubt they could get 1/2 to Japan little lone USA (hence they make ICBMs now). Also landing in Washington and Oregon State would be hazardous for any air borne assault would be too hazardous since PANG in Portland (142 FW: F-15C) and NAS Everett (USN F-18E) has fighter defense squadrons which on the ground and turned off during a EMP could Scrabble and shoot down cheap Chinese (sorry got to go PC: North Korean) junk knock offs of IL-76 transports then. New Mexico after the commies took over Mexico in the Original makes better sense of the invasion.

    • If were going to screw up awesome 80s classics like there trying to do now with Top Gun (No F-14s= No TG Movies: F-18s suck anyway). Im waiting for them to redo First Blood now a Iraq vet blows Hope Washington away or will Hollywood make him gay too now??

      This is silly they cant make new plots for new flics so they ruin classics by making PC crappy modern remakes.

    • i like how the “North Korean” soldiers were dressed in chinese camo too.

      north korea invading the US would be impossible. Now, a unified Korea? a entirely different matter. i think they could have gone very far with a red dawn remake and there are many concepts that were unrealized.

      a unified korea rising as a world power while western countries and china flounder in debt and economic collapse…far more plausible. You know what is even more plausible? change the north koreans to globalist UN troops occupying a US drowned in civil war and collapse. oh, add PMCs, German villans, and a rothschild-esque shadow group pulling the strings.

      • Wow, that whole “unified Korea” thing is straight out of Homefront:

        http://www.homefront-game.com/

        Not a dig, really. Liked the game enough to play it through twice.
        Being from Spokane (O.K., I lived there for 2 years), I was looking forward to seeing some of the landmarks from the city, even more so for good ol’ Fairchild AFB. Now I’m wondering if they used a real high school (Lewis and Clark Tigers, etc.) or just used some generic made-up school.
        As I now live here on the opposite side of the state (Puget Sound corridor), I’ll have to catch it at a second-run theater.
        BTW, anyone review Skyfall yet?

        • selous, that is interesting!

          I dont have anything to do with video games but the link showed me that john milius was also associated with Homefront.

          it draws interesting parallels with the original red dawn, in which the united states was split at the mississippi.

        • Homefront was good but not for the kiddies. Hiding from the “Norks” in a mass grave in a little league field? But the 870 with the sureshot stock was cool.

    • That’s not what happened. “Liberal” Hollywood DID make it with the Chicoms as the baddies. The Chinese stridently objected, and, owning much of our debt, it was CGI’d over so the uniforms were North Korean. What other present-day communist government would YOU have preferred? Outside of the massive Cuban military machine, I mean? Pyongyang DOES, after all, boast of the planet’s largest army, even if most of them are lucky to be armed with rakes or pitchforks.

      Four million North Korean troopers armed with pitchforks? Work for YOU?

  10. I liked the original, I thought the red army was on the coast ane the cubans and nicaraguans got sent to colorado because it was cold there and they drew the short straw. maybe not , its been a long time . I just saw skyfall last night, and thought it was good, it wasn’t any more realistic than this one.

  11. seen the movie (my wife and i were bored and decided to drive into town and catch a movie) and wasn’t impressed. it could have been so much more.

    leave it to independent developers to form more elaborate concepts when it comes to painting a picture of US occupation.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gy7FVXERKFE

    Now THAT is a movie I want to see. MGM, you should have jumped on that bandwagon…oh wait. thats right. you couldnt even portray chinese soldiers acting as the villan so why would you portray our own government as such?

    • Except Grey State has no invasion/occupation. THEY’RE OURS. But I’m looking forward to it as well. They made the trailer only, in order to get investors. As I understand it, nothing much beyond the trailer exists, as of yet. Who knows HOW far down the road the movie release is.

      The greatest danger is that, by the time they start making the film, the real thing will already be underway.

  12. Received an invitation to see the movie, but turned it down. The original version will remain a cheesy 80s classic. This one just seems like typical Hollywood crap.

    EVIL ASIAN PEOPLE! OH NOEZ!

    I’ll wait for the DVD.

    Call me a nerd, but I’m more excited for Iron Man 3 or ‘The Hobbit’.

  13. Just saw the movie. Rotten Tomatoes’ ranking is 12% for critics and 61% audiences liking it. Obviously, Ralph, is in the 12%. Me, I am in the 61%. I guess that puts me amongst the illiterate masses.

    You’re right, the premise makes no more sense than the original. And everything said about it is correct. It’s sappy and silly. Scenes are either unlikely or unbelievable. So what, it’s still a pleasant 90 minutes or so.

  14. I may have misread but, did this jackalope call the original Red Dawn a bad movie? The original Red Dawn is maybe one of the most awesomely awesome B movies of all time!

    Avenge me! Avenge me!

  15. This movie was great. The only problem is that it left me wanting more. We are up to our noses in shitty entertainment, lawyer show after lawyer show, doctor show, crime show, cop show, zombie show, etc. Sure some of it is amazing, good acting, production quality, music, but the settings are all the same. The most recent general story setting has been the “Zombie” one, and I’m sure we are all tired of that.

    Red dawn is one of two films, (the other being something caled “Red Dawn”) that have the setting “Your home nation invaded, what do?” And I loved it. We have so many shows about preppers and how awesome our military is, we are ready for this setting.

    More on my blog, I don’t want to fill up this thread with my rambling…

    • I don’t watch TV, you are so right about the shows you mentioned. Want to know why the cops act the way they do-you know, the paramilitary garb, the over the top junk they pull at every opportunity to show what badasses they are, and walk around like stiff-legged dogs. They are tin plated jackasses with delusions of godhood. You know what makes them this way? They watch cop flicks on tv. They act like tv cops. In reality, the 1o% I just described make all of them look bad.

  16. I *REALLY* wanted to punch the little brother character in the face for about an hour every time he appeared onscreen. The N. Korean captain had more warmth and character.

  17. Since there is no country in the world that has the logistic capability to invade a country the size of the US and its military, the logic of the premise is ridiculous unless they occur in an alternate historical reality. As the producers of the film failed to this account and used current reality (well, what passes for reality after you do some peyote) the film is a monumental waste of time. By the way, the actor who play the North Korean colonel, is a bubba: yes, is was born in the deep south (one the Carolinas, North Carolina comes to mind). The other failure of the movie is cast an Australian actor in the lead that cannot hide his accent. Yes, it is a waste, even if you like watching many guns fired mindlessly like fireworks; I am a target shooter and I hate the waste of ammunition. I like to hit a target with as few rounds as possible, specially as today’s prices even if you reload.

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