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‘Red Dawn’

by Giovanni Fazio

One day we’ll wake up and the sky will be green, the grass will be blue and dogs will walk humans on leashes as gleeful gnomes burble in frothy rivers of chocolate. If all that seems like a reasonable proposition, then maybe you’re ready for “Red Dawn,” which asks us to believe that one morning we’ll wake up and North Korea will have invaded and conquered the USA.

Ha ha, seriously. I know Kim Jong Un is trying his darndest to be Dr. Evil — reportedly machine-gunning his ex was a good start — but short of inventing a death ray or giant monster, it’s hard to imagine the above happening. So while “Red Dawn” may be a war-action movie in name, for all intents and purposes it plays as comedy. Bad comedy.

Red Dawn
Rating
Director Dan Bradley
Run Time 93 minutes
Language English

“Red Dawn” is a remake of the equally dire 1984 movie by gun nut John Milius that appeared at the height of the Cold War. This was a time when Ronald Reagan could hallucinate about mighty armored spearheads from tiny socialist Nicaragua that were poised to invade Texas at any moment and people actually took him seriously. Nowadays the Soviet Union is gone, terrorism is the threat and the only things invading the United States are pesky snakehead fish, but the new “Red Dawn” acts as if the pinko threat never faded.

Stuntman-turned-director Dan Bradley sticks close to the original’s plot of a communist invasion of small-town America, which is foiled by a bunch of high-school jocks and cheerleaders (played by Chris “Thor” Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Isabel Lucas et al) with hunting rifles who go all partisan on the brutal occupiers. Of course, in 2013 the sight of valiant American insurgents using car bombs to blow up foreign enemy soldiers at their roadblocks is more than a little ironic, since for the past decade or so America has been on the other side of the coin.

“Red Dawn” isn’t so much a movie as an NRA infomercial, a paranoid fantasy scenario of exercising one’s Second Amendment rights to bear arms to repel a foreign invader. Of course, if they really wanted to play to that crowd, it should have been a U.N. invasion force in black helicopters, or perhaps shape-shifting reptilians led by a horned Barack Obama. Actually, the movie originally posited China as the dirty commie invader — which is at least one notch up on the suspension of disbelief meter — but when the filmmakers realized the effect that demonizing the Chinese would have on the box office, they quickly changed the enemy to North Korea in post-production. Presumably all those Asians look alike anyway.

Such is Hollywood in our day and age: Make a dumb jingoistic movie about evil communists getting killed in scores by fresh-faced teens clad in Gap clothing, then cave when you realize the communists won’t buy your product. (And “Olympus Has Fallen” did the exact same thing.) Appeasement is a strange stance indeed for a hardcore right-wing movie, but no stranger than the idea that every movie that ever made money in the ’80s needs to be remade, no mater how awful and out-of-date. What next, “Footloose”? Oh, wait a minute …