Young guns – Red Dawn review

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By Richard Haridy
April 2, 2013

John Milius‘ 1984 film Red Dawn was a jingoistic fever-dream straight from the right-wing heartland of the United States. It banked on the Soviet paranoia of the era to show what would happen if America was invaded. This remake (shot in 2009) replaces the Russians with North Koreans, and dials back the fanatical conservatism in fear of alienating viewers. The result is a blandly neutered affair.

Chris Hemsworth, playing a character I assume is named ‘Hero,’ transforms a rag-tag bunch of Yankee teenagers into a guerrilla army after North Korean soldiers literally drop out of the sky one afternoon. Despite a modicum of late exposition, it is unclear how such a small country took over the U.S. The movie is disinterested in examining those issues. Instead, in the space of 15 minutes, we see an invasion accompanied by a team-building montage, and before you know it (30 minutes in, to be exact) they are a highly trained group of soldiers pulling off elaborate missions to take down the invading force.

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Dan Bradley, an experienced second unit stunt co-ordinator, makes his directorial debut here, and his set-pieces are exceedingly competent. However, the feature, as a whole, is airless. Apparently the enemy was originally China, and after sharp criticism from the country, the enemies were restructured in post-production so as not to threaten this valuable market (hence the four-year delay). This is merely one of the notes that seem to have resulted in a vanilla production.

At one point a war veteran speaks of fighting insurgents in Iraq and the picture offers up a fascinating proposition. Dare it make an analogy between our heroes and Iraqi resistance forces? Would it be subversive enough to compare its antagonists to our brave soldiers in the Middle East? Nope. Red Dawn quickly moves on to a dull montage and more dubious character exchanges, leaving us with something intricately designed to not offend any subset of its audience. It’s as impotent as Milius’ original was ballsy, and despite a brief running time and passable action, it ends up a frustratingly pointless experience.

2/5

Red Dawn is available on DVD and Blu-ray from April 3, 2013.

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