Starring Chris Hemsworth, Isabel Lucas. Written by Carl Ellsworth, Jeremy Passmore. Directed by Dan Bradley. PG. 93 min. Opens Nov. 21.
The guerrilla warriors in the remake of Red Dawn are fortified by classic rock, Rolling Rock, and Subway sandwiches procured at gunpoint. In other words, they’re all-American kids. Where John Milius’s delirious 1984 original imagined the Iron Curtain descending on a small Colorado town in the form of an invading Russian military force, Dan Bradley’s update finds North Koreans parachuting into suburban Spokane—a post–Cold War scenario that nevertheless keeps the ideological goalposts in the same place they were 30 years ago.
This football metaphor could be extended to include the film’s heroes, a group of high-schoolers who escape the initial attack and dub their resistance squad The Wolverines, in honour of the local gridiron team. Their leader is Jed (Chris Hemsworth), an ex–Iraq war vet familiar with insurgent tactics. The Wolverines may utilize pipe bombs and clandestine assassinations, but it’s only to defend their turf against a cabal of evil North Koreans who prove hilariously incompetent at quelling this amateur uprising—especially since they’ve taken over the world’s greatest military superpower.
Both versions of Red Dawn are veritable fever dreams of National Rifle Association advocacy, but Milius’s film had vivid young stars (Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen) and a grim intensity that belied its basic silliness. The dreadful pacing and noticeable visual sloppiness of this version may be attributable to massive re-editing after the fact (the bad guys were going to be Chinese), but it’s the relentless political metaphor that’s truly gruelling. A late image of Old Glory being brandished in the midst of a violent civilian uprising would seem to signify a cause beyond vanquishing the foreign bogeymen dujour. Red Dawn is a movie for those who think America needs to be taken back by force. Newly minted revolutionaries like Donald Trump will love it.