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'Red Dawn' remake offers shoehorned patriotism

Published: Tuesday, July 7 2015 12:32 p.m. MDT

This film image released by Film District shows Connor Cruise, left, and Josh Hutcherson in a scene from This film image released by Film District shows Connor Cruise, left, and Josh Hutcherson in a scene from "Red Dawn." (AP Photo/Film District, Mark Preston) (Mark Preston, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

You wouldn’t have to know that “Red Dawn” is a remake to get the feeling this movie is out of place in 2012.

If you’re looking for a fun, simple action flick to stir feelings of patriotism in your soul, “Red Dawn” will probably do the job. But once you let your brain start asking questions, the curtain will come down quickly.

The premise is simple: life is normal in Spokane, Wash., until one day foreign invaders parachute in from the skies and take over the city. With the world they knew in chaos, local teens respond by taking to the woods and forming a band of freedom fighters.

The freedom fighters (named “Wolverines” after the local high school mascot) are led by an Iraq War veteran named Jed, played by Chris Hemsworth (“Thor”). After they escape to the woods, Jed uses his military expertise and a 30-second training montage to whip his rag-tag bunch of rebels into a crack fighting unit. Along the way, he also has to manage his immature younger brother, Matt (Josh Peck), whose selfishness on the high school football field carries over into his efforts at guerrilla warfare.

This film image released by Film District shows Adrianne Palicki, left, and Chris Hemsworth in a scene from This film image released by Film District shows Adrianne Palicki, left, and Chris Hemsworth in a scene from "Red Dawn." (AP Photo/Film District) (Uncredited, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

“Red Dawn” is a remake of the 1984 film of the same name, which was probably the second-most popular 1980s Cold War film next to “Rocky IV.” Back then, the invasion took place in North Dakota, the invaders were the Soviets, and the Wolverines were led by Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen. In 2012, the North Koreans are the ones falling from the skies.

And that’s where things get a little shaky. While one part of your brain is watching exciting action sequences and cheering for America, the other part of your brain is asking questions like, “How did the North Koreans get a bunch of paratroopers all the way across the Pacific Ocean undetected?”

Some fleeting exposition tries to connect the dots. We eventually learn the success of the invasion was made possible through some kind of cutting-edge technology, and a scary news montage over the opening credits sets you up for a potential international conflict. And to be fair, “Red Dawn” intentionally places its audience behind the uninformed point of view of its protagonists. It’s a basic “what-if?” story that makes you question how you would react to a similar situation.

This film image released by Film District shows Jeffrey Dean Morgan, left, and Chris Hemsworth in a scene from This film image released by Film District shows Jeffrey Dean Morgan, left, and Chris Hemsworth in a scene from "Red Dawn." (AP Photo/Film District) (Ron Phillips, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

But the central problem with the film is that it is trying to shoehorn a (relatively) viable plot from the 1980s into a modern context, where it doesn’t quite fit.

If you can get past this, “Red Dawn” is still fun. Director Dan Bradley’s action scenes are well-executed, the acting isn’t distracting and it never hurts to use a little Creedence Clearwater Revival on the soundtrack.

Bottom line: If I had seen this movie when I was 12, it probably would have been my favorite film for at least the next six months. It has guns, camping and all the cool guys have girlfriends. “Red Dawn," whose heroes are teens, will be most appreciated by the teen audience. But adults will lose interest pretty quick.

For a remake of the first film to ever get a PG-13 rating, 2012’s “Red Dawn” won’t cause any content controversies. It more or less marches lockstep with today’s action-PG-13 standard: lots of shooting, lots of noise, not much blood or sex, but plenty of profanity and one F-word.

Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson and Chris Hemsworth in Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson and Chris Hemsworth in "Red Dawn." (Associated Press)

Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who also teaches English Composition for Salt Lake Community College. You can see more of his work at www.woundedmosquito.com.

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