Action Movie Friday: Red Dawn (2012)

It is time for Action Movie Friday, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!

Title: Red Dawn
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release: 2012
Genre: Action, Thriller, Remake
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Adrianne Palicki, Brett Cullen
Director: Dan Bradley
Writer: Carl Ellsworth, Jeremy Passmore
Distributor: FilmDistrict
Budget: $65 Million
Box Office: $48 Million

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 12%

Gingersnaps Rating: One Cookie!

If Expendables was an original movie about a group of action heroes whose actors that you had heard of and everyone wanted, Red Dawn is its complete opposite, a remake of a move about a group of action heroes whose actors you didn’t know except maybe Chris Hemsworth and nobody wanted. Sorry, Chris. So, why did this movie get made? Hollywood! That’s why!

Summary:

Big Brother Jed (Hemsworth), a big tough Marine, has come home on leave to see his father (Cullen), a Spokane city cop, and his little brother Matt (Josh Peck) for a few weeks of what is supposed to be a relaxing leave. A chance to catch up with old friends, including an old girl from high school, Toni, (Adrianne Palicki.) During their  celebration of losing the football game, a blackout happens and everyone goes home. The next morning, they wake up to find North Korean forces parachuting into the city of Spokane. Jed and Matt managed to escape Spokane and on the urging of their father head towards a cabin in the woods with a bunch of other teenage boys with them. Matt’s girlfriend, Erica (Isabel Lucas) isn’t so lucky. Quickly betrayed, and with opposing pleas from parents, losing one parent his life, Jed decides to fight and teaches the teenagers to become a guerrilla unit. They do well enough, an outside group of Marines from the middle of the states, comes and asks for their help to get a piece of equipment from the enemy. Who will live and will they succeed in this by the check boxes action movie?

Review:

I don’t know what this movie was supposed to be, but whatever it was supposed to be, it wasn’t it. To put this into perspective, Thor,  staring Chris Hemsworth, had come out roughly a year earlier, and executives were probably relying on his name to draw people to this movie, which is otherwise chock full of stars straight from TV. And TV is probably where this movie belonged. Unfortunately for executives, Thor had been panned as a pretty mediocre film in it’s own right and Chris Hemsworth’s chiseled good looks and deep voice weren’t going to make up for that. This film had a relatively low budget of $65 million, brought in only $48 million at the box office, either didn’t or couldn’t have an international release due to well, some very good reasons, and only sold about $20 million dollars worth of DVDs and Blu Rays within the first weeks of sales. By all accounts, a pretty critical flop. Thank goodness it was a cheap flop in Hollywood terms.

The story for Red Dawn is so illogical and split and unresolved that it would have been better if it had been an hour and a half of Chris Hemsworth yelling incoherently and blowing shit up. Terrible on the budget those explosions but far more entertaining. The script for this movie almost literally ticks the check boxes. Open with a football game that little brother loses, check, instant betrayal by one of the teenagers, check, impassioned speech from father to fight that gets him killed, check, little brother blows plan to kill leaders in order to rescue girlfriend, check, big brother is a prick to about everyone, check. We spend 3/4 of the movie with this little band of fighters and only this little band of fighters and we never get enough storytelling time with any of them to get past this check the boxes mentality. Which is a shame, because there was some character storytelling potential that the actors weren’t given the chance or the script to explore. (I blame you writers.) And then the last 1/4 of the movie, the story, what little we had, goes off the rails as we introduce three more characters that we aren’t given enough time to care about, who spit on the people we’ve been ingrained to root for the last 3/4 of the movie, to go on a do or die mission to get a piece of communication equipment off the enemy. It was suddenly as if the producers, writers and directors went, “Oh, we aren’t telling a survival horror movie! This is supposed to be an action movie! We better throw in some action!” Because by that point of the movie, this whole, ‘help these marines get this technology’ makes no sense whatsoever in a movie that was already illogical! Especially when we already had an entirely different plot set up of ‘take back Spokane!’ So, introducing this at 3/4 of the end, means you get to the end of the movie and are staring at the dark screen going “Wait, that’s it? But we never found out what happened about well, any of it!”

There are at least six deaths of the main cast that we are supposed to care about, and all for pretty much nothing! I think the worst of it was, the first time I watched this movie was that we got to the end, Chris Hemsworth and Adrianne Palicki had been set up as a romantic subplot and then they never even kissed. Why did I bother to watch this movie? Why! I mean, I could have forgiven some of the illogical plot and Josh Peck’s continual pouting if there had been at least a kiss. But no.

The movie spends so much time focused on their by the check box plot, that we spend no real time with any of the characters other than big brother and little brother. And we don’t spend enough time with Jed and Matt to even really care about them. Back stories are not explained, no one is given a good enough reason for the viewer to care if they live or not. The relationship between Erica and Toni is never even explained, are they sisters? Cousins? Was Toni, Erica’s babysitter at one point? What is the deal? Why is Erica’s family so important that Erica is a hostage to keep them passive? Two of these teenagers were from out of town, and we don’t know why they were in town during the school year in the first place! I guess it wasn’t important in the whole ‘Koreans invaded Spokane’ plot line, so why bother giving us a reason to care about these orphans. Who, don’t seem concerned about getting back to San Diego and presumably the rest of their family. And wait, isn’t Jed a Marine? Shouldn’t he be reporting to his base? Did we just spend this whole movie rooting for a deserter? And, why oh why, when the retired (but now active because someone has to fight) Marines show up to get the equipment, did Jed not mention that he was also a Marine? This might have resolved the whole “You’re just a bunch of kids” chickenshit attitude that made me want to tear my hair out.

So, I’m afraid I have to eat the plot’s gingersnap.

That doesn’t even go into how illogical the whole setup of the movie is. This is a movie setup that could only make sense in Hollywood. I understand that this is a remake of the 1984 movie with Patrick Swayze, and in the 1984 movie they used the Soviet Union as a antagonist. Well, the Soviet Union makes at least a tiny bit amount of sense! They actually have the military power and technology to maybe pull something like this off. North Korea, at this point and time, doesn’t. The first time we see the Koreans, they are parachuting men and only men out of planes and then within five minutes, they have vehicles on the ground. If they had vehicles on the ground, why were they parachuting out of planes? This is a prime example of this movie’s version of logic. There is no power, but somewhere there is still a television station broadcasting. EMPs don’t work like that! Despite the fact North Korea dislikes capitalism and corporations, Subway is still open! What level of technology do the North Koreans really have? Old grenades? Or rocket launchers. Choose one! The brothers don’t even look like brothers. I could go into several more paragraphs nitpicking the details of this movie.

So, I’m afraid I have to eat the world  building gingersnap.

The fights are a mess. In fact, the one fight you want to see in the entire movie of Hemsworth versus the Korean General takes place mostly off screen. So, no, the fights are not entertaining. I have to eat another gingersnap.

And there are no gratuitous explosions in this story. There are no ‘what the fuck, why did they do that?’ and then laugh hysterically. The explosions that could be seen as gratuitous and unnecessary take place in the last minute of the movie and are so halfhearted I can’t even consider them as remote possibilities. It was more of a ‘what the fuck? why did they take so long?’ and then shake your head in frustration. Goodbye fourth gingersnap.

The only place I can give this movie props is the treatment of women. The women are not threatened with rape. They pull their weight and learn new skills just as much as the boys do. I can’t say anything about their plot arcs, given that there really wasn’t a plot to begin with. They aren’t given any fight scenes. But then again, Chris Hemsworth was only given one fight scene and half of it, including the start, took place off screen. So, I shall be exceedingly generous and give this movie a cookie for the women.

In the end, this movie left me feeling frustrated and without any closure. Never a place you want to be in at the end of the movie. It didn’t feel like a movie. It felt like an hour and a half long television pilot, where we lost half the good characters due to budget concerns and half the plot threads were left loose for future episodic resolving. If the movie had either focused on the plot with the guerrilla forces taking back Spokane, or the plot with the Marines needing the piece of communication equipment to take back America, then this would have been a much better movie. Since they spent 3/4 of the movie setting up taking back Spokane, I wish they had actually done it. That would have given the movie a much more triumphant and resolved ending. Isn’t that what the trailer and the movie box promised? Just go through with what you promised at the very least! In the ending we were given, there was no hope. Which is what I have for this movie, no hope. One gingersnap and lots of popcorn thrown at the screen.

I’ll leave you with the best line from the movie.

“Marines don’t die, they just go to hell and regroup.”(Maybe, that’s what this movie is doing.)

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