‘Red Dawn’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated November 18th, 2014 at 4:00 am,

Red Dawn 2012 starring Chris Hemsworth Josh Hutcherson Josh Peck and Jeffrey Dean Morgan Red Dawn Review

Red Dawn feels like more of an overly-fantastical propaganda action film than the serious war drama the original aspired to be.

The 2012 Red Dawn had many, many, pitfalls in front of it. First of all, the story this remake attempts to re-tell is one tied to a very specific era of history (The Cold War); secondly, the movie has been sitting on the shelf for more than year (thanks to MGM’s bankruptcy), while the socio-political climate of the world has meanwhile continued to change. Finally, certain members of the cast have gone from being obscure up-and-coming talent to either bonafide stars or those who never made it to the big time, either way influencing our perception of what was meant to be an ensemble of relatively unfamiliar actors.

With such challenges facing it, does Red Dawn (2012) manage to avoid those many pitfalls and still deliver a satisfying action/drama experience? And is the film enjoyable for anyone besides those looking for a hefty dose of unabashed American patriotism?

Director Dan Bradley is an effective architect of action, but in many ways the new Red Dawn feels very dated and doesn’t offer as much substance or dramatic depth as the original. For those who like their action fantasies to be glossy, polished, adrenalized run-n-gun sequences, you’ll get what you’re looking for from this film (plus that hefty dose of American spirit). For those who can’t enjoy the hearty thrill of action without the cerebral accompaniment of logic, you’ll likely find more headache than heart-swell.

Chris Hemsworth and Adrianne Palicki in Red Dawn 2012  Red Dawn Review

Chris Hemsworth and Adrianne Palicki in ‘Red Dawn’

The story has been re-located from Calumet, Colorado to Spokane, Washington, and this time the enemy is North Korea (working in cahoots with Russian ex-patriots), instead of the Soviet threat that was ever-present at the time of the 1984 original. In a risky move (more on that later), there is a major dramatic subplot tacked on, in which leading man Jed Eckert (Avengers’ Chris Hemsworth taking over the famous Patrick Swayze role) is now an Iraq War veteran returned home to make amends with his estranged family, which includes reckless little brother, Matt (Josh Peck) and stalwart father, Tom (Lost’s Brett Cullen).

The family drama quickly takes a backseat as the skies over Spokane get littered with invading North Korean soldiers, led by the cunning and ruthless Captain Lo (Will Yun Lee). The Eckert boys escape into the wilderness with some of their high school friends and acquaintances, and Jed begins to mold the kids into a hardcore insurgency group known as “The Wolverines” (their high school mascot). However, as Lo becomes more and more aware of the insurgents’ success on the battlefield, he plots to lure the young rebels into more intricate traps, which could end up getting them all killed in action.

As stated, director Dan Bradley’s background is in action stuntwork – he’s worked on high-profile projects like the Bourne and Spider-Man sequels – and this clearly shows in the construction of Red Dawn‘s numerous action sequences. However, while the action is competent (at times thrilling), the narrative threads woven around that action aren’t nearly as tight. Like the original film, we get a lot of action sequences in montage form; however, unlike the original film, the level of paramilitary skill being displayed by rank amateurs (and just one vet) seriously pushes the level of believability to the brink. Certain logistical issues (like how the Wolverines setup their strikes - or how they make their repeated escapes) are skipped over entirely, which will be a minor issue to those effectively swept-up in the action and patriotic pride, but will irk anyone attentive enough to notice the narrative corners that are being strategically cut.

Chris Hemsworth Josh Peck and Josh Hutcherson in Red Dawn 2012 Red Dawn Review

Chris Hemsworth Josh Peck and Josh Hutcherson in ‘Red Dawn’

The script by Carl Ellsworth (Disturbia, Red Eye) and newcomer Jeremy Passmore attempts to streamline the admittedly loose narrative of the original (in which the Wolverines were simply waging a war of attrition while shouldering the crushing weight of war and death). Meditations on warfare and the American fighting spirit are apparently too boring for today’s audiences, so instead we’re treated to a flimsy (albeit more pointed) story, in which The Wolverines are chasing after your standard movie MacGuffin in the form of a radio communication device carried by Captain Lo. The new version does manage to improve some of the narrative subplots – most notably the relationship between Jed and his brother Matt, which effectively serves as the story’s emotional core.

We know now that there are a few stars in the group of young leads. Chris Hemsworth is the most high-profile breakout, thanks to his appearance in multiple blockbuster franchises (The Avengers, Snow White); Red Dawn was originally supposed to serve as his big Hollywood debut, but even this late in the game, it is still an effective showcase of his leading man presence. Actor Josh Peck (The Wackness) isn’t nearly as established, but his role as Matt Eckert certainly hints at star potential. The story of Red Dawn 2012 is really Matt’s coming-of-age story, and Peck handles the development of his character well, while also serving as an effective foil for Hemsworth. Together, the arc of their relationship is the more satisfying portion of the movie – even though it is cliched in many ways.

Hunger Games star Josh Hutcherson is far more meek and reserved in his supporting role as Robert, the high school tech-geek,  but he works well as one-half of a duo completed by Connor Cruise (as in Tom Cruise’s adopted son), who isn’t the strongest actor and benefits from Hutcherson’s support. Adrianne Palicki (G.I. Joe 2) is also an effective foil/love interest for Hemsworth (and a convincing enough action star); conversely, Isabel Lucas (Transformers 2) fails to prove herself, while actors Edwin Hodge and Alyssa Diaz are pretty much marginalized as the less important members of the Wolverines squad.

Josh Hutcherson and Connor Cruise in Red Dawn 2012 Red Dawn Review

Josh Hutcherson and Connor Cruise in ‘Red Dawn’

Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen), Matt Gerald (Avatar) and Kenneth Choi (Captain America) cameo as three special forces operatives who team with The Wolverines (as opposed to just one solider, as depicted  in the original), and they are a welcome (read: humorous) addition by the time they appear in the third act. Sadly, the villain in this film (Captain Lo) is not nearly as complex or developed as Ron O’Neal’s (Superfly) Col. Ernesto Bella from the original. In general (no pun), the invading forces in Red Dawn 2012 are just faceless hordes of “bad guys” – and while that works in the context of this shallower interpretation of the story, fans of the original will definitely notice the change.

In the end, Red Dawn feels like more of an overly-fantastical propaganda action film than the serious war drama the original aspired to be. Its premise is woefully outdated, and despite an opening montage comprised of real news footage (which tries in vain to make the context of the film feel believable and relevant), the movie never overcomes a general sense that this is all happening far outside the realm of possibility. Still, action fans will be entertained enough and even the staunchest cynics may find a bit of patriotic pride leaking through at one point or another. Bottom line: you could do worse for a holiday season movie.

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For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant editors check out our Red Dawn episode of the SR Underground podcast.

Red Dawnis now playing in theaters everywhere. It is Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense war violence and action, and for language.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

TAGS: Red dawn
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  1. Seeing it today! I’m glad the action delivers :)

  2. With all the hurdles put in front of this movie along with poor reviews I still really want to see it and really want to like it, I don’t know why, i usually hate remakes especially of cult movies but something just makes me want to warm to this, will go and see it with an open switched off mind

    • That is exactly how I feel about it as well

  3. The original…a ‘cult movie’ ???

    The original was an overacted, dull-as-dishwater, dismal failure. Why would anyone want to remake this turkey? Was the NRA or GOP involved in this decision? Because their presence would certainly explain the pathetic nature of this sequel/remake/rehash.

    • There is not an overabundance of either in Hollywood, just like your IQ.

      • Haha thanks

    • The original one was AWESOME!

  4. The original and this new one both are woefully illogical in their assumption that the respective antagonist nations could launch invasions on U.S. soil. There’s a bit of a logistical problem called, uh, the ocean. Besides North Korea couldn’t invade and take over South Korea today, much less try to invade the entire frickin’ continental United States.

    The old USSR at their height didn’t have any enough naval resources to transport the forces necessary to launch an attack. There are also certain things known as satellites and intelligence that tend to notice such massive troop movements in the first place.

    • And I assume a man generating and self absorbing 1 ton of gamma irradiated mass, a new york cop constantly having issues on christmas, etc and so forth pulls logic to the forefront?

      You want logic go see Lincoln.

  5. So in other words, avoid this remake and go watch Tomorrow When The War Began again then?

    Because that movie was great, I hope they make more since there were several books in that series and the first movie ended with the kids having helped take out a major connecting bridge to stop the Chinese sending more troops into the town.

    That or watch the original again. As cheesy as it seems sometimes, it was still a great movie.

    • I was just going to ask how the Red Dawn remake compared to TWtWB.

      I caught that one as a rental last month. I wasn’t particularly impressed with it, it already felt a bit like a rehash of the original Red Dawn.

      • That’s how I felt going into it too but was pleasantly surprised at how good it was.

  6. hated the original in every way possible, so i doubt i’ll be seeing this is it’s worse then the original. that plus i hate patriotic movies, regardless of what country the movie was made in.

    • Glad you felt the need to post that as if anybody cares.

  7. I feel bad posting in this thread since I haven’t seen the movie, but I petition the Article Writers to add the “No way in hell am I going to waste my hard earned dough on this one” radio button to all future Vote \ Poll options.

    I smelled this one out during those long “This one’s gonna be good y’all, please go see it” things that they play repeatedly before you actually get to see the movie you’re there to see.

    I’d be surprised if it made any money at all this weekend. Everyone’s going to see either Lincoln, PI, or that campy vampy movie.

  8. It’s getting reamed over on RT so I am surprised that it garnered at least a satisfactory rating here.

    As with RandomInternetGuy above, I smelled this “turkey” coming a mile away. I really wish Hollywood would give up this stupid passion for remaking GOOD 80′s movies into bad ones.

  9. Saw this in an advanced screening, I’ll have to kind of agree with the review here. I kind of glossed over the whole thing, read most of it, but might have skipped it, so sorry if you did say this, but my main issue with this movie is that it seemed like only the main brothers’ characters were ever really developed. Everyone else was just kind of introduced and then glossed over… There were so many emotional and moral dilemmas they could have brought us through that they just skipped over and ignored. There was the issue with that kid and his dad that they didn’t really dive into, then how one girl just simply forgives another person’s mistake that lead to someone she cared about DYING, and how they changed the betrayal of the movie into an unintentional act so even that moral dilemma is completely gone… So many missed opportunities with this one.

    **SLIGHT spoiler alert***
    And with the three Marines that join their group, they kind of made the movie better, but unfortunately that was pretty much at the end, so it was like right when the movie seemed like it’s gotten into its rhythm and is getting good, the movie ends…

    Yah, definitely a 2.5-3/5 movie for me too. Could have been a lot better…

    • Yeah I noticed how it ended when it was getting good, and made me wonder if they were planning another movie.

  10. I love the original Red Dawn and I love this remake. I mean sure the new one has a few small problems but I love how it remixes the famous scenes from the original. 4/5 for me haha.

  11. Saw it and enjoyed it. Had some good action sequences. Could have had more depth but it still worked as a popcorn flick. I thought Chris Hemsworth did pretty good in it also. Didn’t expect his final scene though! :(

  12. This movie decided to be completed in a two hour period. To be honest, it had the chance to make this into a much longer series of movies. Invasion – start resistance – success – end, Link up with other areas – defeat – rebuild – succss/defeat – end, etc… The movie writers had an opportunity to set up a true end of world scenario but chose to end with just one movie and a quick $. Missed the opportunity here to create a great series in a differenct realm but with proper time, writing, and effort much similiar to the Star Wars 6 pack of movie success…

    • @Bags

      I think that would have worked. One thing I felt while watching the movie was how rushed it seemed…

  13. is worth going to see

  14. It wasn’t bad but it was good. It just was. There were moments that showed great potential and then moments that I felt could have been done better. I was also disappointed in the ending because I was hoping for an ending similar to the original. But I am glad they chose to use some of the original and be creative at the same time.

  15. this movie sucked with a weak plot, bad acting the Original was a thousand mile better plus it looks like there’s gonna be a sequel which is a terrible idea. Hollywood stop remaking …seriously !

  16. I too liked it. I also liked the original one as well. I don’t know why everyone is a hater to this movie.

  17. Ok, first of all, this movie had a more realistic plot than the first. I mean, an EMP!!! That’s TOTALLY realistic!!! What duchebag even wrote this anyways? Oh, and if the guy who wrote this is reading this, do you have any military experience what so ever? U probably failed National Guard!!! My dad is an Army Colonel, he said this was one of the most realistic fiction war movies he’s ever seen.

  18. If it wasn’t for the great action in the movie this movie would have been a waste of money. Boy has Hollywood producers gotten lame. They couldnt even come up with originality from the original film that was based in Colorado? Im from Colorado and I had just turned 13 when the original movie came out in 1984 and was able to see it without a parent and it became one of my favorite movies of all time. But this new one granted it was based in Washington rather than Colorado this time. And rather than the Russians and Cubans, which the role was reversed this time the Russians became the Cubans with a small role where as the N. Koreans had a big role in the film as the Russians did in the original. But you could have atleast come up with other differences from the original. I mean come on you used the same school mascot. You couldn’t even think up of another school mascot like the Grizzlies, Panthers, etc? Wow lack of imagination Hollywood. And did you really have to use the exact same character names as the original Eckert family of Tom, Jed and Matt along with the other main characters? Instead of Erica you couldn’t use Nina, Heather, Beth etc? Think outside the box atleast. Sheesh

  19. in all honesty, after seeing the original, i hated this movie.
    if they hadn’t tried to pass this off as Red Dawn, i would have been more inclined to enjoy the movie, however knowing i was watching a remake of a movie i grew up enjoying i was largely disappointed
    at some points the movie strayed so far from the original plot, i wondered how they could even call it Red Dawn.
    my biggest problems with the movie include
    *what the heck is up with the crash at the beginning where it totals the humvee and throws a kid into the windshield, yet the truck runs and leaves without a scratch or dent
    *the city environment was great for the guerilla warfare, however, the mountains and open country seemed more probably
    *the characters were too romantically involved with the women whereas the original they were strangers
    *the original included some funny moments that the remake left out such as during the attack when he flips off the russian pilot taking off and drops a grenade in the cockpit, or the soldiers taking a picture in front of the signs at the beginning and bs’ing what it said
    however it did have a few decent humor parts
    *===SPOILERS BELOW===*

    *the scene where they ambush the soldiers from spider holes seemed highly unlikely as to the fact it JUST showed they were near a checkpoint, yet no one came to see what all of the shooting was about, and the kids had time to get the gear from the bodies

    *the movie was way too family oriented, removing much of the death scenes of the original, such as gunning down lines of people, or frankly shooting their friend after he’d been bugged, rather than letting him go on some kind of rampage

    *the characters deaths in the original were meaningful if they were a meaningful character such as gunning down their friend, but making his grave for him, or the brothers being spared at the end of the original
    in the remake, the death of Jed was so ubrupt i missed it by simply turning to the side a minute to ask my friend a question
    in the original we see the pilot and their other friend die as brave martyrs whereas in the remake they died meaningless deaths

    *the original plot of the downed pilot joining up with them was much more believable than the laughable group of now unretired marines who join up with the Wolverines but seem to not know very much about fighting, and only have suped up guns and gear

    *the ending was horrible in the remake
    we first see Jed shoot the general(i think) and kill him in a fairly non dramtic way, then we’re left off seeing them on a suicide mission driving in the camp with .50 cal’s and a mini gun, but it ends there with no conclusion to what happens

  20. Hmm, Red Dawn.. ah, red, communist… uh, two major communist nation left standing… North Korea, with it’s nuclear program having cooling tanks that were little more than swimming pools with ducks in them (true story), a dehumanized, starving populace with no connection with the outside world and a zeal (either forced or assumed) to worship Dear Leader… or China, which is a leading economic world power with a ginormous military, no respect for its citizens or the value of their lives, and who have completely bought out America.

    Thanks for wussing out, film-makers. Don’t want to upset our foreign masters by having the only PLAUSIBLE COMMUNIST THREAT NOW STANDING attack us.

    As for the movie- I’ll catch it sometime. Probably when it airs on television after a three-hour-with-commercials airing of the original “Red Dawn”.

    HOLLYWOOD: Stop the bleeding, or you’ll be dead by dawn.


    This movie had me until the end. After a huge victory their leader, Chris Hemsworth, is killed out of nowhere. This is one of the most pointless and meaningless deaths in a movie I have ever seen. I thought the movie was pretty good until I got there. After that it dropped from a strong 7 to a 5 out of 10. The writers and director really dropped the ball on that one. Other than that, the action sequences are pretty well done and its very entertaining.

  22. crap sh*t…. a complete trash and waste of time

  23. The movie was pretty freaking awesome for someone looking to see action and American Spirit…And all you people need to chill…yes, North Korea was a bad enemy to choose for the movie, but the movie is not trash. Look at the movie in a way like this: “what would happen if something relatively like this really did happen?” The movie is not totally logical and realistic, but it gives you a scope of what the situation would be like. It wasn’t the same as the original; but it still portrayed itself well. Just look at it in a different viewpoint before you lock down into your stubborn opinions first.

  24. This movie was total fantasy only seemingly appealing to gung ho american nationalists.

    For everyone else. Either turn it off after 5 minutes or laugh at the comical nonsense of it all.

    I thought it was funny, the latter for me. Reminded me of Plan 9 from outer space. That Ed Wood quality. A director with a vision but lacked any talent and skill. And the actors gave it a go.

  25. Why kill the main actor , the brother chris hemsworth at least in the second one make as if he wasnt killed just slept with that sleeping sh*t