'Red Dawn' (2012) Movie Review

Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson and Chris Hemsworth in Red Dawn
Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson and Chris Hemsworth in Red Dawn
Photo: Open Road Films

People can smell a bad movie a mile away and walking into Red Dawn it was quite clear someone either forgot to flush the toilet or didn't even want to touch the handle for fear of getting their hands dirty because this one is swimming in excrement.

Red Dawn
Grade: D-

Red Dawn"Red Dawn" is a FilmDistrict release, directed by Dan Bradley and is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense war violence and action, and for language.

The cast includes Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Adrianne Palicki, Josh Hutcherson, Isabel Lucas, Edwin Hodge, Connor Cruise, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Matt Gerald.

Made over three years ago and finally plopped into cinemas following MGM's financial woes, Red Dawn is the remake that never should have been. Unlike the 1984, Cold War-inspired original (which isn't all that good either), times have changed to the point the plausibility of the film is immediately thrown into question. Even once you get beyond the ridiculous conceit and we're introduced to the group of actors that will be leading this muppet show, there is very little reason to endure the duration.

In the original it was the Russians that were invading the United States, now 28 years later it's the North Koreans, a decision that was reached after the film was originally shot with the invaders being from China, but through a bit of digital wizardry we learn Hollywood perceives the only difference between Asian cultures is the flag they fly. However, that's a conversation I've already explored and will leave alone for now.

The plausibility of this so-called invasion aside -- after all, had the film been even halfway decent I don't think it would have really mattered -- it's almost as if Red Dawn went into production with absolutely zero consideration for the film that was being made. Why make this movie? Where is the intrigue? Does this film reflect our current political and societal environment? Is there fear of any kind of foreign invasion I am not aware of to the point our borders can be breached and paratroopers will descend on Eastern Washington with relative ease?

In short, why was this film made?

To ask that question and attempt to answer it after seeing the film would lead many to assume it was actually made this year rather than three years ago. Now co-stars Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson are household names with Hemsworth playing Thor in The Avengers and Hutcherson as Peeta in The Hunger Games. Considering the fear of foreign invasion is limited at best, one could only assume this is a movie solely targeting teen girls wanting to see their favorite "hunks" on the big screen. But are teen girls rushing out to PG-13 militia films nowadays and I just wasn't aware?

That is what Red Dawn is. The North Korean army has invaded the United States and this film centers on a group of teenagers led by Jed (Hemsworth), a Marine on leave, who fight back against the invading force. Watching this scenario come together is as laughable as it sounds and even more so once the training montage begins, but it refuses to end there.

Product placement is wedged in with the subtlety of a fart in church as the "Wolverines" (the name they've given themselves based on the mascot at the local high school) raid a Subway restaurant and even go so far as to use the phrase "sandwich artist", which must have been part of the deal. At the very least it's a scene that gives the audience a laugh, but no scene is more laughable than Hutcherson on a rooftop yelling, "Wolverines!" over and over again with his assault rifle raised to the sky. The last thing Hutcherson will convince me of as an audience member is that he's an "inspirational bad ass" and this scene is doing his future as a potential action star no favors.

Hutcherson, however, looks like an Oscar winner next to Josh Peck whose B-boy, "too cool for school" nature is so off-putting and unnatural you may as well have used a cardboard cutout for all the authenticity his performance adds to the feature. The picture would be better served with him performing fourth-rate rap battles in the background of each scene rather than playing the whiny, love-struck brother of Hemsworth's character.

The only compliment I can give this film is to say it has some decent pyrotechnics, which is to say in terms Peck's character would understand... "Yo! They blowed stuff up real good son!" Well, that, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan leading a trio of Marines alongside the middle school militia toward the end of the film prevent it from being an overall failure.

Red Dawn marks the feature directorial debut of Bourne franchise stunt coordinator Dan Bradley and in all likelihood he won't be offered a major project any time soon based on the final product here. But he received no favors from screenwriters Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore who couldn't even muster together a satisfying ending after we endured 93 minutes of a movie that felt like three hours.


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  • The New Guy

    Wow. You PANNED this movie. I would have thought from this review that you would have given it an F, but I guess those explosions were just to dang good, yo.

  • dslacker

    Set in Eastern Washington ? Maybe a Canadian invasion would have been better. You never know when a bunch of helmeted guys with hockey sticks are going to change world history. There's a movie I'd like to see.....

  • http://www.rabidpictures.com Yaz

    a) no one would invade Canada. we're just too nice.
    b) if someone did invade Canada, it wouldn't last long because we'd make them our friends within the first hour of said invasion
    c) who would invade Canada? honestly?

  • James

    The movie itself shouldn't have been associated with the orginal Red Dawn, other than character names the "remake" has little to no relationship with the original. The original was an allegory for the freedom fighter resistance against the Soviet invasion of the middle East. It was fairly relevant at the time. A small amount of research on the reviewer's part would have revealed the original cut of this film portrayed the Chinese as the invaders, if the political reasons it was changed are lost on you, perhaps you should pull your head out of your fedora. Was it a fun movie to watch? Yes. Will I run out to add it to my collection on dvd? No. Does it deserve this level of negativity? Not really.

    • Newbourne

      the fuck is up with your negativity? Go away.

    • http://www.seensome.com SeenSome

      I'm pretty sure Brad mentioned that the invaders were changed from Chinese to North Korean...

      "... 28 years later it's the North Koreans, a decision that was reached after the film was originally shot with the invaders being from China, but through a bit of digital wizardry we learn Hollywood perceives the only difference between Asian cultures is the flag they fly."

      And if you had bothered to do your research, you'd know it wasn't for political reasons at all, it was for financial reasons. China has become a huge foreign market for films and they knew a movie about China invading the US would automatically make nothing in that market.

  • Garrett the Mad

    You'd almost think I wrote this review =)

  • Kimberlesk

    Love this review! Just what I expected of this film (although "made three years ago" pretty much says it all).
    Reading your review, makes me want to watch the original again.
    Thanks Brad

  • Bob

    I feel like calling this a muppet show is a great disservice to the Muppets.

  • John W

    Wait you mean this movie won't replace Citizen Kane as the greatest movie ever made? What a shock.

  • JN Films

    Hey Brad I totally love and agree with the article, and because of that I'm doing a paper on the article for AP English.

  • Sandy

    I haven’t found any good reviews of the Red Dawn remake. I’m taking it off my list of movies to see. I’m curious about the original, though. It seems like there aren’t a whole lot of people who like that one either, but a friend I work with at DISH recommended it, so I’ll probably still check it out. It’s available for streaming from DISH Online, so I can watch it any time. Hopefully it’s better than people have been saying, it looks like interesting.

  • Just A Girl

    I just got done watching this movie and thought it was fantastic. Basically everything this guy says is trash. I'd like to see him make a better film. Ha. This film also brings up the fact that we are not as safe as we think we are, that in all actuality we could be invaded any moment, living completely unaware. I don't know where this guy brad gets off being able to trash a film like he does. I guess it just shows his own insecurities. I also feel as if he uses big and artistic words to make up for the fact that he has no real talent.

    • Kimberlesk

      Have you seen the original?

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  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/topyxyz/ topyxyz

    Wouldn't consider it as a truly bad film. It's got enough action to keep you entertained. But the dialogue is crap.