‘Red Dawn’ remake has its moments

By Gary Clift

Time flies when we’re having fun at the movies. Though it seems like only yesterday, the boy’s adventure action-picture “Red Dawn” actually came out in 1984. The movie, about a foreign invasion by Communists of Colorado and the locals’ guerrilla response, only pleased unsophisticated day-dreamers.

But in retrospect, that movie did have a notable cast. Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Lea Thompson, young Charlie Sheen, and C. Thomas Howell are among the young, Rockies-dwelling rebels. Harry Dean Stanton, who was in “Seven Psychopaths” just a couple of months ago, and Ron “Superfly” O’Neil appeared alongside Powers Boothe and Lane Smith.

Do you recall that movie? Well, those who don’t study the past are, they say, doomed to remake even “Red Dawn” every twenty-eight years.

This time around the cast includes Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, TV villain Brett Cullen as a Spokane police sergeant whose sons form the center of the resistance, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Dean being a proven middle name for “Red Dawn” stars.

Hemsworth is Thor in the comic book movies. Hutcherson was a kid actor on TV who was in “Firehouse Dog,” the most recent “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” “Cirque du Freak,” the most recent “The Kids Are All Right,” the effective “Bridge to Terrabithia,” and “The Hunger Games.”

Here Hemsworth plays Jed, a Marine who has returned to his home in eastern Washington. When the North Koreans parachute into the American northwest, he gathers up some of his little brother’s friends and heads out into the woods.

Jed trains the boys (including Hemsworth’s Robert) and girls to fight and forage and hide. Making a raid on the city, they spray paint “Wolverines,” the name of their high school team’s mascot, on a commercial building. “Wolverines!” becomes their battle cry.

That’s the level of sophistication of things here. I don’t suppose anyone who attends the movie is actually worried that the North Koreans are going to invade, even if they are advised by Russians and in possession of a weapon that kills electrical systems and, at the same time, by a sort of Enigma machine of a radio system.

Heck. Over the last millennium, few English speakers have learned much about being invaded, except by other Anglo-Saxons. But for some the idea of foreign invasion immediately puts the Wolverines in the right. They are not terrorists. They are freedom fighters. If the re-make causes a few of us to consider the differences between the two kinds of vandals, that may provide it with an excuse for existence.

Its makers are counting more on the movie’s fighting scenes to attract paying customers. These scenes are not bad. The kids avoid capture in town and in the wild. They swipe weapons and munitions, blow some stuff up, engineer some prisoner escapes, and eventually meet up with the national irregulars (Dean Morgan’s outfit) who use local expertise in an attempt to snag one of them radios.

But these aren’t really exciting or realistic action sequences, particularly considering that the movie is showing in the same multi-plexes with the latest Bond movie, “Skyfall.” What’s fun in “Red Dawn” is that in it American adolescents turn their natural skills as rebels to good purposes. The disaffected get to be the heroes because Spokane was invaded, remember?

The Wolverines do. But their fans won’t remember that there was an earlier version of this movie. And why should they? Why should I? Why should anyone?

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