When the original Red Dawn was released in 1984, it couldn’t have been at a better time. With a narrative that explored the idea of an alternative 80s timeline in which the Russians invaded America, the film perfectly mirrored the western paranoia of a still-in-force Cold War and only served to cement the opinion of then-president Ronald Regan that the Soviet Union was the "evil empire". Now in 2013, we have a remake which see’s America invaded by the North Koreans in a narrative idea that feels a little too relevant. Intrigued? You’d be forgiven.
Red Dawn begins with an increasingly fast-paced opening credits sequence which sees news footage of stories we’re all too familiar with compiled into one long political "statement"; the recession, the financial crisis in Greece and Europe, the problems with US banks and the recent tensions between certain countries has left the West vulnerable. This introductory montage culminates in a bold statement. If anything happens to America or its NATO allies, if another World War starts, if there’s one country right now that cannot be trusted, it’s North Korea and everything is potentially going to be their fault. Sounds like a good marketing ploy when you think of recent events that have caused political tension; North Korea’s satellite deployment at the end of last year and their attack on Yeonpyeong Island in 2010. In reality, Red Dawn had been shelved since 2009 following MGM Studios financial issues. What was originally a Chinese army became a North Korean one during post production and the film was eventually released last year in America.
Not that the wait was particularly worth it. The story is basic and rather drab; a city in Washington State awakens to foreign paratroopers falling out of the sky and quickly find out their town, and country, are under enemy military occupation. Cue a small group of young town residents fleeing to a cabin in the woods (not that cabin but given actor Chris Hemsworth’s involvement, it would have made an interesting film mash-up that would have been far more fun and stupid) and starting up a guerrilla campaign to take back their town and nation.
If only it were remotely believable. Lead actors Hemsworth (Thor, Cabin In The Woods, Avengers Assemble) and Peck (Mean Creek, The Wackness) are the "emotional" backbone of the story, playing brothers Jed and Matt Eckert, grown apart and thrust back together in a crisis. Hemsworth manages to get off lightly, playing the role of the older brother with almost textbook ease and hammed up self awareness all at once. He knows it’s not a great film but is able to instil some credibility in his performance, unlike co-star Peck as his younger brother. Not quite leading man material, Peck is embarrassing to watch; wooden, pouty and hissing his lines through his teeth in what sounds like the worst forced performance of a Marlon Brando impersonation you have ever heard.
By the time you get to the incredibly corny ending of the film, you couldn’t care less about the North Koreans because you’re so preoccupied with wanting to slap him across the face. In hindsight, had the picture gone into production after the release of The Hunger Games, you can’t help but imagine fellow star Hutcherson (Journey 2) in the role of Matt. One wonders whether the acting abilities of Hemsworth and Hutcherson could have created a chemistry, which is so lacking, that may have saved the film. Luckily for Hutcherson he fares well in the role of friend Robert, the only character whose development feels even remotely genuine. The rest of the cast are sadly forgettable, clichéd film staples that are as interesting as a cardboard cut-out.
One that is probably best avoided, Red Dawn is rushed remake, high on superficiality and providing little else. Lacking logic (where are any of the US military?), excitement and decent explosions (some of the CG is surprisingly awful), Red Dawn is probably only worth watching if you are in the mood for something brain-numbingly dull or are in some need of male candy. Which means my ovaries, and those of many other hormonal girls, will be happy to explode through repeated viewings just so I can watch J-Hutch in action. Two stars out of five if that, and only for its H-surnamed actors.