Film Review: Red Dawn (2012)
I made the same mistake here that I did with this week’s episode of Cult. Namely, watching something better beforehand.
The night before I watched Red Dawn, I watched Tomorrow, When the War Began.
Compared to the books, it isn’t that great. But compared to Red Dawn, it is a fucking masterpiece.
Red Dawn is crap, is what I’m saying.
TL;DR Ridiculous pacing, zero character development, and a virtually retarded main character make Red Dawn more than a chore to watch. The action is effective, but who cares? 2 out of 5 stars.
And I kept waiting for an epic Chris Hemsworth shirtless scene. It never came. And neither did I.
So the plot is pretty thin. Chris Hemsworth and his brother (not his actual brother. Missed opportunity, much?) Matt are chilling in their hometown/city when North Korea drops from the sky to invade their asses. They escape with a handful of Matt’s high school buddies and some randoms, and go to hide out at their family’s cabin. After witnessing the atrocities that the North Korean forces are committing (including the execution of their father), our heroes lead the rag-tag group into guerilla warfare to liberate the town. They are alarmingly good at it. Some US marines eventually show up (led by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the combined group leads an attack to get some important communications technology. They succeed, and the film ends with the Wolverines starting to lead more and more people.
There’s also some romance sub plot for both brothers, but they are shallow.
I think the most irksome thing about Red Dawn is brought out by its pace: these kids are fucking immortal fighting machines. Yeah, I can appreciate when a movie doesn’t outstay its welcome, but the Wolverines are way too effective to be believable. The North Koreans managed to take over almost the entire USA overnight, yet these high schoolers (plus Chris Hemsworth) can shit all over them with little-to-no training?
At least Tomorrow’s characters only did pitiful little disruption missions. Not full on, balls-out gunfights in the streets like the Red Dawn characters. With virtually no opposition.
Why I hate this movie:
The only times they actually have members killed (prior to the Russians’ involvement) come when the North Koreans bomb their base, and when Matt goes rogue on their assassination mission, which causes one of the Wolverines to get killed during the scramble. They face no other troubles at all during any of their other (frequent) jaunts in and out of the city. What the fuck?
Matt is a fucking awful main character. He’s a mopey little bitch whose main concern is his goddamn high school girlfriend. Not, you know, the occupation of the entire city/country. Just his girlfriend. And he fucks up a prime opportunity to assassinate a bunch of high ranking officials just so he can pick the bitch up from her prison bus.
Worse, he shows almost no remorse over this. He sulks in the woods for, like, 5 seconds. The sister of the guy who dies because of his selfishness is prompty killed during the base bombing, so nobody ever properly bitches him out for it. Chris has some obligatory big brother disapproval, but that’s it. Fucking douchebag.
Connor Cruise (Tom’s son) plays a personality-devoid fodder character. Am I supposed to care?
The time frame of the events is scattered by the break-neck pace. It could have taken place over weeks. It could have taken place over months. I don’t know.
Shouldn’t Chris Hemsworth be wary of staying in a cabin in the woods? Pun.
The point-blank execution of Chris and Matt’s dad gets a laughable discretion cut. Tomorrow didn’t cut away from its similar execution scene. Weak.
There’s a random “comic relief” scene where Chris and Matt trick Josh Hutcherson into drinking deer blood. It’s gross and weird.
Oh, and there are 2 fucking bizarre moments during the raid on the police station. Apparently these characters have John Carter-esque jumping abilities, because several of them jump from mutliple floors up in an apartment building to land on the roof of the station. Without injury. And Matt later does the same thing inside the station to reach the comms device. Without injury. What?
Reasons to watch:
The action, and particularly the use of practical effects, is very nice to watch. Although they win with no effort in every gun fight, watching the Wolverines mow down some North Koreans is never dissatisfying.
Speaking of North Korea, I watched this at a relevant time, didn’t I?
The premise is genuinely frightening. Not as effective as Tomorrow (ambiguity and lack of information can be an asset), but still. The first invasion scene is a great example. All chaos and tension. Shame it doesn’t last.
Isabel Lucas, an Australian actress who plays Matt’s girlfriend that he fucks over the Wolverines to save, has a decent American accent. I appreciate this.
Best line of the movie goes to a billboard in the prisoners’ camp. It’s just a blank, white sign with black text: “You deserve to be here.” Simple and childish. Nice.
Connor Cruise gets stabbed with a tracking device. When the group discovers this, he volunteers to stay behind to be killed. I lol’d.
The movie actually had the balls to unceremoniously knock off Chris when the Russians track the Wolverines via Cruise. Respect.
During the “I’m gonna ruin our plan to see my girlfriend” rescue, Matt and Isabel hide out and change clothes in some chick’s clothes store. She later gets tracked down by the North Koreans and is about to be executed for helping the “terrorists.” The Wolverines save her just in time. Fuck yeah.
Oh, and Cruise and Hutcho hold up a Subway at one point. Awkward product placement plus why-the-hell-is-a-fucking-Subway-one-of-the-things-that-the-North-Koreans-are-okay-with points.
A name cast and engaging premise make Red Dawn tolerable. Just. 2 out of 5 stars.