Red Dawn

Directed By: Dan Bradley

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Isabel Lucas, Connor Cruise, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Propaganda films are not known for being of the highest quality.  I'm not saying this is a hard and fast rule.  After all, Casablanca, one of the greatest movies of all time, has its roots in World War II themed propaganda.  What I am saying is that quality movies are hard to find within the genre.  That's why I'm so surprised that anyone ever thought it would be worthwhile to remake the 1984 Cold War themed propaganda film Red Dawn.  They should have just left it alone.

Matt Eckert (Josh Peck) is the quarterback on his high school football team in Spokane, Washington.  They lose a shot at the championship because he chooses to showboat and play for himself on the field instead of the team.  His father Tom (Brett Cullen) and his girlfriend Erica (Isabel Lucas) console him after his loss.  Erica convinces him to go out that night after the game.  Meanwhile, his brother Jed (Chris Hemsworth) returns home from active duty as a marine and ends up at the same bar as Matt and Erica.  The power goes out in the city, and they go home.

The next morning, the brothers are bewildered to find that Spokane is under siege by North Korean troops.  They've taken over the city and spilled lots of blood in the process.  Along with Erica's sister Toni (Adrianne Palicki) and several others, they escape to a cabin in the woods.  Erica is captured by the North Korean forces.  Their father is killed by local North Korean leader Captain Lo (Will Yun Lee).  Jed, a marine, organizes these survivors into rebels known as the Wolverines (after the local high school football team) and leads them in a battle against the men who have taken their home.  The Wolverines may not be able to function as a team though because Matt is still playing for himself.  He's obsessed with rescuing Erica.

Red Dawn was actually developed back in 2008 and 2009.  It was shelved when MGM ran into financial woes.  As it stands, I would have been fine with the film being shelved permanently. I'm not just saying this because it's a propaganda film and director Dan Bradley's job is to spoon-feed moviegoers a message against North Korea and Russia.  I'm saying this because this is not a well-made film.  The actors don't get the job done for the most part, and the story is not told well. 

Red Dawn features a lot of young talent.  In some cases, the film predates their big breaks.  Red Dawn was made before Chris Hemsworth ever wielded a badass hammer in Thor and The Avengers.  It was made before Josh Hutcherson became a tribute in The Hunger Games or had lesbian parents in The Kids Are All Right.  For other cast members who have not had these successes in Hollywood, they may still find their big break in the acting game someday.  I can promise you that it won't be because of their performances in Red Dawn.  Most of the acting from the principal cast members is horrendous.  With the exception of Josh Hutcherson, it's painful to watch the cast continuously butcher pretty basic dialogue.  Josh Peck is particularly bad.

Director Dan Bradley makes storytelling a low priority in Red Dawn, and it's apparent throughout the film.  He jumps straight into the action without sufficiently developing the characters, building a setting, or establishing a tone.  The order of developments in the first ten minutes of the movie is literally a football game, a party, and an assault on the town.  Bradley doesn't take the time to give us a reason to care about these characters or about the fact that they've lost their homes and their freedom.  Without these critical elements of storytelling, we won’t care, and all the action in the world is pointless no matter how well done the guerrilla warfare is.

Red Dawn has certainly not been my favorite film of the holiday season so far.  It's a mediocre action flick rife with bad acting and poor directing.  That being said, it's not anything a few Black Russian cocktails can't solve.  Red Dawn gets a 0.09% rating.