Red Dawn review

Better never than late

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Patrick Swayze, star of the original Red Dawn , passed away in September 2009 in the same week this remake started shooting. How’s that for a bad omen?

True to form, Dan Bradley’s re-do wound up being shelved as a result of MGM’s 2010 bankruptcy and re-appears now, three years on, with its Chinese villains digitally re-cast as North Koreans.

The doltish, messy and frequently incoherent result bears all the hallmarks of a botched and compromised endeavour.

On the upside, it makes its trashy 1984 inspiration look a classic in comparison. Back when John Milius was the director and the Russians were the aggressors, Swayze’s fellow resistance fighters included Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell and a pre- Dirty Dancing Jennifer Grey.

Their distinctly B-team successors, led by a pre- Thor Chris Hemsworth, include a pair of Joshes (Peck and Hutcherson), Isabel Lucas from Transformers 2 and one Connor Cruise, adopted son of Tom and Nicole.

With barely a scrap of charisma to share between them, the chances of them mounting a successful insurgency in the wake of a surprise invasion in the Pacific Northwest do not look great.

Conveniently, though, Iraqi war veteran Hemsworth whips them into shape in record time – the better to make Will Yun Lee’s dastardly Captain Cho and the rest of his communist commandos regret they ever parachuted in from old Beijing Pyongyang.

Given Bradley’s track record as stunt coordinator on the likes of Quantum Of Solace and the Bourne saga, it’s no surprise the copious action scenes are competently staged.

But when it comes to directing actors he proves a complete novice, notably in the scenes where Hemsworth and Peck’s bickering brothers are required to grieve for their murdered pop or woo their respective squeezes. “Dude, we’re living Call Of Duty ,” sighs Hutcherson’s gamer kid at one point, “…and it sucks!”

Oh well: at least he got a dry run for The Hunger Games .

Freelance Writer

Neil Smith is a freelance film critic who has written for several publications, including Total Film. His bylines can be found at the BBC, Film 4 Independent, Uncut Magazine, SFX Magazine, Heat Magazine, Popcorn, and more.