A plucky band of teens fight back when North Korea invades Spokane, Wash., in Red Dawn — Wolverines!
And if none of that previous sentence made any sense to you, well, buckle up!
Jed Eckhert (Chris Hemsworth, or, as you probably know him, Thor) is recently back from Iraq and staying with his father, police officer Tom Eckhert (Brett Cullen), and high school football player brother Matt (Josh Peck). Jed, Matt and a group of high school friends are out at a bar when the power goes out. The next morning, we realize it’s the start of an invasion — like a full-on, Band of Brothers-at-Normandy, paratroopers-and-airplanes invasion. By whom, you ask? North Korea, of course! That’s right, North Korean soldiers are running around Spokane, herding people into prison camps and chasing down obvious resisters like Jed, Matt and a group of kids who fall in with the brothers as they escape to a family cabin in the woods: Robert (Josh Hutcherson), Daryl (Connor Cruise), Danny (Edwin Hodge), Greg (Julian Alcaraz), Julie (Alyssa Diaz) and Toni (Adrianne Palicki). Erica (Isabel Lucas), Matt’s girlfriend, is captured at the beginning of the invasion and taken to a camp.
(And, lest we judge actual bankable stars Hutcherson and Hemsworth too poorly, this move was shot pre The Hunger Games and Thor, respectively. How were they to know that, like a photo of you in junior high that suddenly pops up on someone’s Facebook page, this embarrassment was going to resurface after they gained fame for actual money-making movies?)
The teens quickly decide that they have a duty to fight these invaders. Since Jed has the military know-how, he becomes the leader of this band of insurgents who call themselves Wolverines, after the high school football team. Their goal is to disrupt the occupation by the North Koreans and eventually band together with other resistance groups across the country to Take America Back. (Music swells.)
Somewhere in the back half of the movie, we learn that North Korea has had help in the invasion from Russia, which now controls the eastern seaboard. Consider for a moment that Russia has invaded the political power and financial centers of the country — Russia! — and we’re watching a movie about how North Korea has invaded the Pacific northwest. Not saying Spokane isn’t vital to the nation, just saying maybe the movie about the invasion and occupation of this significant chunk of the country by our Cold War era enemy is the movie we’d all like to see.
Of course, originally this movie was supposed to be about an invasion by China, a country that, as it turns out, spends a lot of money seeing American-made movies. So, a little digitally inserted flag here, a little changed introduction montage there and now the villains are from North Korea, which is not kicking in to the world box office. It’s possible, likely even, that in its original version, the Red Dawn with invading Chinese was xenophobic and horrible. Well, now the movie is xenophobic and horrible and lame. Sure, North Koreans invading the country is not so much sillier than Cubans invading (as they did to help their buddies the Russians in the original 1984 Red Dawn) but it adds a layer of unnecessary stupidness to a movie that is already bogged down by exceptionally terrible dialogue, shockingly awful acting and a muddy ridiculous plot.
The original Red Dawn is beloved by a certain age group for its jingoistic silliness and its who’s-who of the 1980s cast (Patrick Swazye, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Grey and also, Harry Dean Stanton and Powers Boothe). It was unlikely that this remake was going to capture the campy magic of that original, but the movie also fails to stand alone as a decent invasion movie. On TV, Falling Skies, Walking Dead and Revolution do the scary-new-world and battle-for-your-life stuff better. Movies like Battle Los Angeles do a better job of giving us street fights versus invaders. Red Dawn offers nothing new and nothing fun for those looking for just a burst of nostalgia. Like acid-wash jeans and high bangs, Red Dawn is something best left to the Reagan era. D
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense war violence and action and for language. Directed by Dan Bradley with a screenplay by Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore, Red Dawn is an hour and 54 minutes long and distributed by FilmDistrict and Open Road Films.