Shelved films rarely end up being worth it. Shelved remakes are even more hopeless, yet underneath all of the troubled production and corny marketing lies Dan Bradley‘s Red Dawn (2012). The film is almost a miracle, because almost everything about it spells out disaster, yet all of the young (and now established) actors carry their own and make for a refreshing take on a familiar story.
The story of Red Dawn is that of a simple one. Brothers Jed (Chris Hemsworth) and Matt (Josh Peck) live in a normal American town that suddenly gets attacked by foreign invaders. These invaders launch a full-scale assault on America and slowly start taking over the country as every day civilians surrender their rights and way of living to this evil enemy.
Jed and Matt take some friends (Isabel Lucas, Josh Hutcherson and Adrianne Palicki) to their remote cabin in the woods to hide out and plan a counterattack and ways of surviving. This basic red, white and blue story of heroism and patriotism is directed with a light approach by frequent stunt coordinator Dan Bradley, who makes his transition to the director’s chair with Red Dawn.
Bradley understands action and how to make it look great, so he rigs the explosions and sequences of war with a fluid nature and the result is PG-13 guerrilla warfare that never feels too toned down, while still deeming itself appropriate for the younger audiences that will most-likely see it over the long weekend.
Chris Hemsworth takes complete charge as the leader of the pack and luckily for us we’ve already seen him act big and tough in Thor. Had this film released when it was supposed to we could have been singing his praises a little bit earlier, because he literally commands the screen as Jed. He’s borrowing from a lot of other “big brother/military background” characters, but he does it with enough likability.
The rest of the gang is a mixed bunch, with Josh Peck falling in place as the believable second in command and Josh Hutcherson more or less continuing to be a little bitch on screen whenever possible. Adrianne Palicki and Isabel Lucas suffer from underwritten roles that only seem to be present to boost the female numbers and give the boys a cause for fighting, but they make the best of their roles and turn in some emotions that aren’t going to send you home weeping, but will make you care enough to see what happens next.
The biggest dilemma Red Dawn faces is planted firmly towards the end of the film, where Bradley starts to wallow in the film’s weak characters that are played by more-than-capable performers. There’s just not enough material presented to make you want to sit through a 15-minute stretch of dialogue after a character is hurt or killed, yet Bradley resorts to this at least 3 times. It bogs the otherwise harmless film down and stretches its brisk running time.
At least there’s a sense of humor that pops and gives the film a pulse every now and then. There’s an advertisement-heavy scene in a Subway restaurant that captures everything that works in the film and there’s also some references towards Call of Duty that makes for some thoughtful discussion on the actuality of war being as exciting as the video games make it out to be.
None of this is ever explored in detail, but the winks and nudges feel like enough to pass the time.
Clearly someone from the cast or crew enjoyed the original film and that’s okay, because this version works fine as a modern update with different enemies and a fresh set of kids to root for. Despite all of the obvious messages pushed through the film Red Dawn still becomes something that I wouldn’t completely disregard or count out, because Bradley always has something up his sleeve in the form of a well-staged shootout or a bit of character bonding between Hemsworth and Peck.
The performances make the film different and Bradley’s direction gives it a safe, but still enjoyable look and feel, which is all you can ask for at this point. The original Red Dawn was never anything special in my eyes and the remake mostly remains the same.
Red Dawn (2012) – 7/10