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Red Dawn remake shows that some originals are best left untouched

Posted Friday, November 23, 2012, at 1:22 PM

After a two-year delay due to MGM's financing challenges, the long-awaited remake of the 1984 cult-classic film by the same name, may leave fans of the original wishing that MGM had left the project on the shelf. Director Dan Bradley, best known for his stunt work in the Jason Bourne series and a variety of big budget Hollywood films, makes his directorial debut in this story about a group of high school students in Spokane, Wash. who defend their town from North Korean invaders.

The story follows Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth), a Marine who has been away from his family for six years after the death of his mother. Tensions are high between the straight-laced Jed and his uncontrollable younger brother Matt (Josh Peck) but when a North Korean invasion descends on their town, their father, Sgt. Tom Eckert with the Spokane Police Department (Brett Cullen) entrusts Matt's life to Jed. Joined by Matt's friends Robert (Josh Hutcherson) and Daryl (Connor Cruise) the group flees to a remote family cabin where they are joined by Toni (Adrianne Palicki), Danny (Edwin Hodge), Julie (Alyssa Diaz) and Greg (Julian Alcaraz). Led by Jed the group learns to fight and wage guerilla-style war on their invaders. Borrowing the name "Wolverines" from their high school mascot the young fighters bring chaos to what the North Koreans are trying to make a quiet occupation.

After multiple assaults on North Korean targets, the Wolverines are contacted by military forces to help retrieve a new type of weapon that allows for communication disruption on a large scale. The retrieval sets up a bit of an anti-climatic ending with no big surprises in store for the audience but a lot of action.

If the strength of the original 1984 film was in the development of characters and the choices the young fighters face in defense of their homes then the weakness of this film is removing those choices to offer a less substantive story. With the possible exception of Josh Peck's portrayal of Matt, the rest of the cast is given little to work with and makes it difficult for the audience to care about their struggles. Although these kids are all defending their homes and their freedom in what could possibly be a real world scenario, we are never brought into their world and the audience never has the opportunity to endear themselves to the characters on screen.

Not to go unnoticed is the film's action sequences and stunts, which are quite impressive. Bradley falls back on his skills as a stunt coordinator to bring us breath-taking and very believable near-miss moments. The action sequences have a pace and authenticity that is not matched in the rest of the film. However, it is not enough as this film falls short of capturing the gritty yet mesmerizing realism that the first film offers.

Red Dawn is rated PG-13 for intense war violence and action and for language.

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