Verdict: Two out of five stars. Essentially the world’s longest argument for gun rights, the Red Dawn remake retains all of the paranoia, jingoism and borderline offensiveness of its predecessor, not to mention some glaring plot holes. Even a stable of hot young stars cannot do much to lift this movie out of the mire. Nevertheless, still watchable in a twisted, mindless way. 
Red Dawn

They were stunned by how hot the enemy looked ©Contrafilm

Once upon a time, the United States was engaged in a Cold War with the Soviet Union. Out of the paranoia and fear of this rivalry came Red Dawn, a 1980s, right-wing fantasy about a group of American high school students repelling a Soviet invasion of the USA. It starred Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen, two icons of that decade, as feuding brothers and resistance leaders Jed and Matt Eckert, and became a cult hit.
.
28 years later, one is dead and the other coked out of his head. So hot young stars Chris Hemsworth and Josh Peck have taken their place, alongside their equally hot and young colleagues. And they don’t come much hotter or younger than Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, stars of two of the biggest franchises around (The Avengers and The Hunger Games, respectively). While the action has shifted from Calumet, Colorado to Spokane, Washington, the setting remains small town America.
.
Just like its predecessor, the Red Dawn remake does its part for international relations by casting the secretive and easily demonized North Korea as the invaders. But the commies aren’t going to take the home of the brave – the actual publicity poster tag line – so easily, no sir. “For them, this is just some place. For us, this is our home,” growls the er, Australian Hemsworth to his band of merry men and women. The very fact that the villains were altered from the original Chinese to the more hateable North Koreans in post-production, in order to retain access to the lucrative Chinese market, should say it all.
Red Dawn

Chris was embarrassed that he couldn’t recall the lyrics to Star-Spangled Banner ©Contrafilm

Given the events of recent years, this film might well have been called Iraq In Reverse – a vast, powerful army invades a country, only to be pegged back by a resourceful civilian population that starts an insurgency. The sight of civilians dressed in orange jumpsuits and detained in concentration camps raises uncomfortable echoes of Guantanamo Bay, though the producers thankfully refrain from having the Koreans waterboard anybody. The tone is unapologetically rah-rah and patriotic, and just about the only thing missing is the Team America soundtrack.
.
Former James Bond and The Fast and The Furious baddie Will Yun Lee has the thankless task of attempting to give the movie some respectability, as a cold eyed Korean officer. Unfortunately, he has little to do besides strut around in uniform, fire his gun and bark into his walkie talkie in Korean. Not to mention embody some Baghdad-sized plot holes. For instance, just how did the Koreans manage to land their invasion force and defeat the American military so quickly? Why didn’t the British/NATO/Canadians come to their aid? And who in their right mind would believe that American teenagers who probably couldn’t locate Korea on a map would be capable of resisting an invasion?
Red Dawn

The paintball game had gotten out of hand ©Contrafilm

If nothing else, Hemsworth certainly looks the part as resistance leader and Marine Jed Eckert. Tough, commanding and charismatic, he instructs his rag-tag group in the guerilla tactics of an insurgency and makes the resistance look believable. Perhaps recognising the improbability of soft suburban kids transforming into hardened killers almost overnight, the film has more than its fair share of ironic zingers. In response to a friend moaning that he misses playing Call Of Duty, Robert (Hutcherson) replies: “Dude, we’re living Call Of Duty. And it sucks.” And the scene where they stumble upon a Subway and raid it for food is priceless.
.
Wait a minute, you’re probably saying to yourself, so what are Hemsworth and Hutcherson doing in a silly movie like this? Answer: it was filmed and completed long before Avengers or Hunger Games, when their fame reached stratospheric heights. Only its release was delayed by the financial troubles of makers MGM.
.
So go on, watch Red Dawn. In years to come, when Hemsworth and Hutcherson are in the midst of long and fulfilling careers, you can proudly boast that you know the answer to the trivia question: which rubbish film did both these actors star in?
.
Which totalitarian, despotic regime would you like to see invade America? And which heroic, selfless Americans would you like to see repelling them?
.