Monday, November 19, 2012

Review: Red Dawn

If you doubt North Korea could ever generate the firepower to assault the United States, the Red Dawn remake will put those fears to rest instantly. The movie explains exactly how the North Koreans would get it done:

Step one: Wait until the U.S. sends all its troops away to foreign wars, leaving the homeland vulnerable.

Step two: Blast the entire country with The Matrix Revolutions-like EMPs, knocking out the power while maintaining communications with magical Game Boy Advances.

Step three: Borrow heavy weaponry from Russians, who are still secretly Soviets who want to take us over just as badly as they did in the Reagan era, but are waiting for just the right moment to ride the coattails of a crazy dictatorship.

Step four: Have nothing whatsoever to do with China, your communist superpower ally who have been cleanly erased from the movie, despite having served as the villains in the original version, which was supposed to come out in 2010, before the powers that be thought twice about offending a country that we borrow so much money from and lords such a hefty trade deficit over us.

The North Koreans' plan covers all contingencies but one -- that a ragtag squad of high schoolers and their siblings might scurry into the woods, setting up a guerrilla resistance that will undermine the occupation from within, providing a shining light for the rest of the country to follow via a ham radio program.

Chris Hemsworth leads the way as Jed, a soldier who is back in town apparently using the G.I. bill to work on a degree on alcoholism. When he's sleeping one off, he wakes up to a dawn... A RED dawn. Parachuting North Korean troops fire madly at innocents, roll through the streets with tanks and herd timid surrender monkeys into work camps. Worse still, the North Koreans drop bombs that make American toy soldiers' on boys' shelves topple over. This, kids, is what the pros refer to as "symbolism."

Not having any of that, Jed gathers up his brother (Josh Peck), a hotshot high school quarterback who plays by his own rules, and assorted hangers-on and hightails it to the family cabin, where they will plan their resistance. He coaches his charges in the ways of Rambo-like special operatives through that most effective method of training -- the montage.

Once the kids are all montaged up, they're unstoppable forces of patriotism. They blow up transport vehicles, pop out of little holes in the ground to shoot up bad guys, level entire buildings and spray-paint "Wolverines" -- the name of the local high school football team -- on building walls. The North Koreans have the payback coming, being that they're cruel enough to park their tanks on the Wolverines' football field.

The movie works as a silly parade of ridiculous but fascinating action sequences, but flops as political fiction or coherent melodrama. The dialogue is hackneyed and the performances are Power Rangers-esque, and the script hews too close to the dramatic turns of the original, without managing to tap into a nerve that matches the Cold War paranoia the first movie fed off of.

The North Koreans are clownish parodies of bogeymen, no more threatening than Scooby-Doo villains. There's never a fear that they will succeed in their idiotic mission, because they're so incompetent and comically incompetent. At least they've got big guns, even if they don't know how to use them.

But still, they would have gotten away with it, if not for those darn kids.

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Adrianne Palicki, Josh Hutcherson, Josh Peck and Isabel Lucas. Written by Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore, based on the 1984 screenplay by Kevin Reynolds and John Milius, which was based on Reynolds' story. Directed by Dan Bradley. Rated PG-13. 93 minutes.

My novel, Stormin' Mormon, is available as a Kindle book for $1.

No comments: