“Red Dawn” would be forgiven for its lack of geopolitical logic if it could summon a sliver of actual fun, but even hard-core fans of John Milius' 1984 camp classic about Colorado teenagers beating back a Soviet invasion will not be blown away by this new version by stunt coordinator-turned-director Dan Bradley. A sneak attack by boredom is far more likely, followed by a video visit with the Patrick Swayze version to restore order.
Several new “truths” must be accepted for this post-Cold War retooling to work, including North Korea's suddenly hemispheric aircraft range, the utter failure of U.S. air defenses due to budget cuts and the absence of any inkling of an invasion in an era of comprehensive satellite imagery. Also, a group of teenagers can be taught to fight at Special Forces levels after a two-minute training montage. Other than those king-size stretches, “Red Dawn” makes perfect sense.
This time out, “Red Dawn” takes place in Spokane, Wash., where Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth of “Thor” and “The Avengers”) has returned after serving in Iraq. After a massive power outage, North Korean paratroopers rain down on the city, immobilizing the region and putting it under control of the menacing Captain Cho (Will Yun Lee). Jed takes younger brother Matt (Josh Peck) and his friends Robert (Josh Hutcherson of “The Hunger Games”), Daryl (Connor Cruise) and Toni (Adrianne Palicki of “Friday Night Lights”) out to a remote hunting cabin and transforms them into lean, mean, fighting “Wolverines,” named for Matt's high school football team.
As the original suggests, no second-rate military power can match these scrappy teens. But in the new “Red Dawn,” the Wolverines pull off some urban assaults that make absolutely no strategic or storytelling sense. As for the Wolverines themselves, Hemsworth, Peck, Hutcherson and Palicki are serviceable, Isabel Lucas as Toni's sister Erica barely registers, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan shows up too late to make much impact as a renegade former U.S. Marine looking to sign up with the gang.
This new “Red Dawn” sat around for a few years as MGM licked its corporate wounds and did $1 million worth of reshoots and computer fixes to make the invaders North Korean instead of Chinese: Captain Cho was once “Captain Lo,” and all those North Korean stars superimposed on American flags used to be yellow and red. All of this was done to make “Red Dawn” sellable to the Chinese market. But regardless of where we live and what we do, we are all the same, and Chinese audiences will probably prefer the Swayze version, too.
— George Lang
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Isabel Lucas.
(Intense war violence and action, and for language)