Kids With Guns: Red Dawn (2012)

By Damanjit Lamba 

Red Dawn is a needless remake of a 1984 action flick that swaps the original’s invading Russian forces for North Koreans, and therein lies its relevancy (not). Filming for Red Dawn wrapped up in 2010, but during post-production the creators–so on top of contemporary politics–decided to digitally alter the nationality of the villains from Chinese to North Korean. Watching the final product with this in mind, the switcheroo was likely a cinch, seeing as the army of unidentifiable Asian soldiers barely utters more than a few sentences throughout Red Dawn‘s entire run time.

The closest audiences will get to any sort of satisfying explanation for the North Korean attack is a shoddy, chopped-up newsreel of Obama and news correspondents making vague statements about the crafty and “spoiled” Kim Jong-un, the new young leader of North Korea, and the danger he poses to the U.S.

Chris Hemsworth drops his shoulder-length European do for an unfortunate buzz cut to play Jed Eckert: a marine back in Washington State, taking a break from being a “good guy” abroad. Josh Peck plays his younger brother, Matt, who is your average high schooler with a knack for football and a steady girlfriend. When the invading army parachutes into the Eckert’s unsuspecting town, Jed and Matt, along with a few of his high school mates, are able to get away and hide out at the Eckert family cabin. They lay low for a few days, but their sense of isolation grows as supplies run short and Jed, the self-appointed leader of the pack, calls bullshit on all of the news channels reassuring citizens that everything is ok. With his country prominently tattooed on his arm–in case anyone doubted his allegiance–Jed decides to take the situation into his own hands and fight for the freedom his country ‘inherited’. Led by Jed’s hefty influence, the rest of the teens agree to fight under his command and promptly prepare for battle – cue an embarrassing training montage with water guns as practice rifles and half-assed fighting tactics. Within about a week’s time, these unusually good-looking teens are ready to break down an entire military base with the training expertise of a single U.S. marine.

Red Dawn basically slaps the moniker of ‘The Wolverines’ on a group of frightened youths, puts guns in their hands and calls it a day. Any culpability for turning these teens onto warfare is ineptly cancelled out with empty statements about defending their “home” against an enemy that just sees their country as “some place.”

Riled up on clichés, The Wolverines–who always look like they’re about to buckle under the weight of their own rifles–begin to break down the occupying hierarchical army from the tops of conveniently abandoned buildings. The film never really takes shape past this one narrative angle.

More than anything, the chaos created by The Wolverines seems to serve the sole purpose forging a cinematic bonding experience between Jed and Matt. Their father (Brett Cullen) is killed early on by a certain Captain Lo (Will Yun Lee), and every move the Eckert boys subsequently make is connected to their personal vendetta against the captain.

What’s worse is that you can’t even enjoy Red Dawn on a purely visual level (did you see Hemsworth’s hair?!). Director Dan Bradley, noted as one of the best stunt coordinators in tinsel town, dropped the ball big time in regards to shooting. It seems that someone on set thought erratic camera movement necessary to create suspense and drama, when all it really does is give viewers a headache and a blurry sense of vision.

Every single scene with explosives is pointless because of the frustrating and just bad action footage. An outdated narrative and a mistaken sense of what passes for visual thrills makes Red Dawn a movie experience with very little value. This film might be the NRA’s wet dream, but it doesn’t represent an anxiety North Americans are grappling with today. Ideas of nationhood and the nature of warfare have changed greatly since the Cold War era, but Red Dawn refuses to acknowledge any such evolution.

@dklamba

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