Movie Review: Red Dawn

Welcome back to a new week on the blog.  First and foremost, here’s hoping everyone had a great Thanksgiving last week.  With food, family and football, I’d argue that Thanksgiving is the second-best holiday, trailing only Christmas.  The poor day gets overlooked because it’s basically equidistant from Halloween and Christmas, but it’s a truly great day.  (Unless you’re a Lions fan, typically.)  I’d also like to give an A to my aunt Susan, uncle Tom and cousin Erin for hosting a typically delicious dinner, along with a nice heaping of leftovers last night.  And the gravy provided by my aunt Margaret was spectacular as well.

Anyway, now that the food salivating is over, let’s discuss something that was, to say the least, not good.


I hope one of the readers of this blog has a sharp memory, because there’s something I need someone to remember approximately a year from now:

If I ever try and go to the movies on Saturday night of Thanksgiving weekend again, please slap me in the face.  You have my permission.

I will have deserved that one.

On Saturday night, my friend Eddie and I decided to head out for a double feature of Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook.  We arrived at the theatre around 20 minutes before the 6:45 showing of Lincoln – and quickly realized we wouldn’t be seeing the 6:45 showing of Lincoln.  The United Artists Westbury Stadium 12 was filled with hundreds upon hundreds of people who’d also begged Thanksgiving weekend as a movie-going experience.  So Lincoln was sold out, along with a few other films, and our options were limited.  We wanted to stick around for 9:30’s Silver Linings Playbook, since another friend was meeting us there, and we had three options:

1) Do something else until Silver Linings Playbook.

2) See animated film Rise of the Guardians.

3) See Red Dawn, fully aware that its RottenTomatoes rating was a brisk 11%.

Or “10% lower than this”.

Fueled by Eddie, and reluctantly accepted by me for comedic value, we decided to see Red Dawn.  As much as I hated myself for doing it, I’m a sucker for terrible movies, and I had a free movie ticket to this particular theatre.  So Red Dawn it was.

Before we get into the actual guts of the film, I’d like to set up the pre-film situation for Red Dawn.  A 100-or-so-seat theatre was completely packed for this horrible-looking remake of a likely-not-very-good 80’s film (granted, I haven’t seen the original), and I’d pit the average age at about 20.  I’d also pit the average IQ at, well, decidedly average.  I fully realize the previous comment makes me sound like an elitist jerk, and I accept the consequences of this, but let’s just say this wasn’t a theatre of folks who were coming for the brilliant cinematography.  People were actually paying money to see this film, likely in anticipation of their enjoying this film…and I suppose in some respects I’m just as bad as the rest of them.  Yes, I went for unintentional comedy’s sake with no expectations of Red Dawn being good, but I still contributed to the overall ticket count.

Perhaps the most biting criticism I can give of the folks in this theatre is that there were multiple laughs to the Playing For Keeps trailer.  Playing For Keeps, for those of you who don’t know, is a new Gerard Butler movie.  For those of you who do know, it is still, unfortunately, a new Gerard Butler movie.  The decidedly sappy and uninteresting trailer is below, if you have literally nothing better to do with two minutes of your life:

Now that we’re done with that bit of nonsense, on with the review…


Red Dawn is one of the 15 worst movies I’ve ever seen.

OK, I know that’s an arbitrarily chosen number.  And I don’t remember all the crappy original Disney and ABC Family movies I watched as a good.  But doesn’t it sound good?  I’d say, at best, it’s in the bottom 25.  The good news: a movie this bad is typically worth watching for its level of badness, and Red Dawn doesn’t disappoint.  Terrible acting, asinine editing and an overall ridiculous story make this a terrifically dumb film.  But it sure is dumb.  How do I hate thee, Red Dawn?  Let me count the ways:

1. Story

Should I put that word in quotation marks?  Saying “Story” implies that Red Dawn has a story.  Saying “”Story”” implies that Red Dawn has some attempt at a story.  This latter option probably provides a bit more honesty.  Red Dawn, based off the Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen-starring film from 1984, probably didn’t think about its central plot too much.  I assume this, at least, because any thinking would have led to a story that made some semblance of sense.

Within a handful of minutes, Red Dawn‘s central town of Spokane, Washington is under siege by North Korean forces, who parachute in from the sky as part of a country-wide American invasion.  I believe it’s country-wide, at least – we’re informed at points that the North Koreans are on the West and East Coasts, so maybe Kansas gets off scot-free.  (The West Coast invasion makes more sense than the East Coast one – wouldn’t the Americans figure out they were coming by that point?  Wait, never mind.)

Anyway, the North Koreans are in Spokane over the entire course of the film, which spans…a week?  two weeks?  A month?  Three months?  To be honest, I have no earthly idea how long this film’s timeline is supposed to last.  But more on that in a second.

The gist of Red Dawn deals with a group of mainly-high school-aged kids who fight the North Koreans in their own guerrilla-warfare-type unit, led by Jed Eckhert (Chris Hemsworth, who got this role right before being cast as Thor…oops), a Marine on leave.  When the Far East comes a-marching in, Jed, younger brother Matt (Josh Peck) and a group of devoid-of-personality teenagers decide to take matters into their own hands.  Jed, being the world’s greatest Marine, trains the kids and turns them into a lethal group of death-defying killing machines, who take on the North Koreans and their fearless leader, Captain Cho.  (Captain Cho, by the way, is literally given nothing to do as the supposed main villain.)

One of the many who would have been a better villain than Captain Cho.

It would be one thing if the film and first-time (no way, really!) director Dan Bradley acknowledged the ridiculousness of this whole situation, of a bunch of untrained high schoolers going up against an army, with the actual U.S. army nowhere in sight.  Of course, that’s not the case in Red Dawn, which is as gung-ho and serious as a movie of this type can be.  This isn’t tongue-in-cheek as much as it is tongue-hanging-out-of-mouth-while-toting-a-gun-and-firing-wildly-at-evil-Asians.

2. Character Development

Here’s a big one.  There’s not much of a reason to be invested in our central set of folks in Red Dawn, because we don’t know much about them.  We found out just a few minutes into that movie that Jed and Matt lost their mom a few years ago, and that’s allowed to sink in for all of two minutes before North Korea invades the hell out of Spokane.  At least those two have any bit of a backstory – the rest of the motley crew, whose names I literally don’t remember (Darryl, and…I don’t know, five or six other people) are essentially faceless individuals.  There’s seemingly no point to their existence in the movie outside of the plot needing more people to blow up stuff.  Why should we care when these random characters die if we don’t know a damn thing about them?  The answer: we shouldn’t.

3. Editing

As previously noted, I have no clue how long the plot of Red Dawn is supposed to last.  This is mainly thanks to an early montage where Jed trains the kids and teaches everyone how to become an awesome killer, which lasts for a randomly determined amount of time.  How long should it honestly take for a 20-something Marine to train a bunch of high school kids with no prior experience holding a gun, though?  You’d have to guess a couple of weeks of doing literally nothing else but eating, sleeping and shooting at the very least, right?  During this time, we’re assuming the North Koreans don’t discover the group, who’s living in…well, I don’t know…despite the sounds of gunshots upon gunshots every day.  We’re also assuming the group is eating food from…well, again, I don’t know.  (Stop asking questions, Kevin!)

Anyway, the group, who calls themselves the Wolverines (BADASS, BRO) sneaks into buildings and into town where the North Koreans are at randomly chosen times.  How they get into these buildings time after time without being noticed, I have no idea.  Where any American soldiers are during this period of time, I also have no idea.  But Red Dawn, which functions as a bunch of scattershot scenes randomly thrown together, certainly doesn’t provide any moments of clarity.

This seems like a good time to note that, in terms of clarity, I have literally no idea who three of these people are.

4. Cinematography

If you thought The Blair Witch Project‘s camera was shaky, you haven’t seen anything.  None of Red Dawn‘s action scenes – and there are many of them – are in any way coherent.  Bradley doesn’t do himself any favors in his directorial debut, moving the camera back and forth more violently than a Shake Weight.  It’s hard to have fight scenes between high school kids and armed North Korean soldiers without knowing who’s who, but hey, that’s Red Dawn for you!

5. The Villains

Red Dawn was filmed in 2009, with release of the film delayed due to MGM’s financial difficulties.  (Also, probably, because it sucks.)  During that time, the villains were supposed to be the Chinese.  In March 2011, when the producers realized the extraordinary stupidity of this idea, the villains turned into the North Koreans.  And that helps explain why this may be the most faceless group of villains in an action film I can remember.

…seriously, though…the nationality of the American invaders was changed a year and a half after the movie was filmed.

6. Acting

Hemsworth is passable as the leader of the Wolverines, but no other actor or actress does anything to positively distinguish him or herself in Red Dawn.  No one, though, comes off worse than Peck.  His Matt is one of the most unsympathetic and unlikable co-protagonists you’ll ever see in a theatre.  If I ever see him act again, it may be too soon.

7. Whatever Else I Forgot

I’ve never played Call Of Duty and never will, but I’ve read that Red Dawn comes off as a big-screen version of the popular hyper-violent video game.  As if to hammer that point home, one of the characters even admits as much during the film.  But people actually seem to like Call Of Duty.  Red Dawn is poorly acted, shakily directed and one of the worst-edited films I’ve ever seen.  Unintentionally, it’s hilarious.  Intentionally, it’s terrible.  If you enjoy bad movies, see Red Dawn when it comes out on movie channels.  If you don’t, stay far, far away.

(As far away as the U.S. Army, which still hasn’t shown up.)

Grade: D-




2 responses to “Movie Review: Red Dawn

  1. I literally laughed out loud several times reading this review, the Transformers reference, the demographics of the people at the movie theatre, and of course the movie itself. Constantly impressed by the high quality of your writing; keep it up.

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