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Red Dawn (2012)

MGM // PG-13 // March 5, 2013
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted March 9, 2013 | E-mail the Author
Hey, Unnecessary Red Dawn Remake!
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... Sorry, I'm still coming to grips with the bug-eyed comic relief from Drake and Josh getting cast as a football hero heartthrob-type. Where was I? Oh! Yeah. Unnecessary Red Dawn remake. Matt Eckert (Josh Peck) -- the kid flipping the middlesie up there -- plops downstairs one sleepy Saturday morning. His older brother Jed (Chris Hemsworth) is snoozing away on the couch. Joined the Marines, disappeared for however many years without a word, and he just strolls in like this? And I...and I...wait, what is that?! Matt walks out on the porch to figure out what that thunderous rattle is, and...oh, the sky's dotted with dozens upon dozens of paratroopers. North Korea has invaded Spokane.

We're in some alternate timeline here where the global economy is somehow even more in tatters, nations have been using cyberwarfare to send each other's infrastructures buckling to their knees, and...well, North
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Korea -- who can't even launch a single friggin' rocket successfully here on Earth-616 -- is a legitimate force to be reckoned with. What little resistance they meet with is easily overcome. The power grid and all form of communications have been irrevocably knocked out. The United States is no more. Spokane falls. ...but wait! A glimmer of hope remains: a shining beacon to rally those freedom fighters with the iron will to overcome their oppressors in the face of impossible odds. I'm obviously talking about Subway, whose franchise restaurants remain open and well-stocked for some of the most "...the hell?" distracting product placement in the history of anything, ever. Oh, and there are also The Wolverines. In the Middle East, Jed devoted years to crushing insurgent attacks; now, he's leading a group of terrorists to reclaim Spokane to its rightful...well, I don't know if "glory" is the word, but whatever Spokane was before the Koreans swarmed in.

I'll give Red Dawn this much: it hates bloated action flicks just about as much as I do. This remake is a startlingly lean and efficient beast, essentially one action sequence after another after another after another for 93 minutes straight. Red Dawn hardly ever stops to catch its breath, no one stops to yammer on about their feelings or heap out a couple scoops of exposition, there are lots of purty ladies and handsome boys, and tons of shit blows up. Don't get me wrong: Red Dawn is about every bit as aggressively mediocre as you think it is, but plenty of B-action flicks could learn a lot from how swiftly this remake moves and how it carves off all the fat.

On the other hand, there's everything else. Not that a boots-on-the-ground Soviet invasion was plausible in the mid-'80s, but the Cold War was still at such a fever pitch that the pervasive paranoia made it feel like a real possibility. The remake of Red Dawn loses out because the political climate is so different these days, and North Korea just doesn't inspire the same reaction that the Russian threat did all those decades ago. Hell, when cameras were rolling in this remake, the invading force hailed from China, and the whole North Korean thing was stapled on during post-production. The enemy forces are so interchangeable that even their nationality can be swapped out without missing a beat. The '80s Red Dawn invested at least some marginal effort in making the enemy forces seem like recognizable human beings, but the badniks in the remake are nothing but dead
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air. The Wolverines don't have it a whole lot better, saddled with some excruciatingly awful "...because family!" dynamics between the Eckert brothers, Josh Hutcherson doing his proto-Peeta helplessly demure deal, and a handful of "Seventeen" cover models only distinguishable by who their boyfriends are and how well they fill out a tanktop.

No one on either side has anything resembling a personality, this remake doesn't have a hook that digs its way in like the Cold War era-original did, and this bloodless retread is bullet-for-bullet meeker and less violent than the original. Marginally entertaining but instantly forgettable. Rent It.

Well, at least Red Dawn looks all nice and shiny on Blu-ray. Robust contrast, a remarkable level of fine detail, a consistently filmic texture that's becoming more and more rare with action flicks anymore, nothing in the way of unwelcome digital hiccups: the one chunk of the review with no bitching at all!

Red Dawn gets to stretch out across both layers of this BD-50 disc, which is awfully generous considering that it's a 93 minute movie with zero extras.

Red Dawn boasts the 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack you'd waltz in expecting to hear. The film's dialogue is rendered cleanly and clearly throughout, and every last line is balanced flawlessly in the mix.
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Sprays of gunfire swarm from every direction. Countless jet fighters and attack choppers soar from one speaker to the next, taking better advantage of the multichannel setup than just about anything else that's found its way into my home theater in recent memory. The Wolverines kinda have a knack with C4, and all those eighty megaton explosions grab a chokehold on the lower frequencies too. One gripe I have is that the volume is dialed down a little lower than usual. I had to tick it up three notches to sound closer to normal. Even then, the LFE wasn't quite as impactful as I'd expect, and distinctness and clarity felt as if they were a few percentage points from being where they oughtta be as well. The sound design is jaw-dropping, but it kind of feels as if someone dialed down a couple of sliders at the last minute. Well above average but not quite perfect.

No dubs or alternate soundtracks at all, surprisingly. Subtitles are served up in English (SDH), Spanish, and French. Also breaking away from convention, the translated ChineseKorean dialogue is burned-in rather than leaning on player-generated subs.

Whole lotta nothin'. Not even a trailer. I mean, you get a DVD and a digital copy and all out of the deal, but nothing that matters.

The Final Word
Wait, what was the line again? "More like a shit sandwich without the bread." No, no, I'm getting a bit too over-the-top here. Despite being just about universally reviled, Red Dawn plays like a pretty okay action flick for my money. Completely forgettable, mostly toothless, and not even a little bit engaging, but shockingly alright. Worth a rental or a couple of clicks on Netflix. Rent It.
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