Saturday, November 24, 2012

Red Dawn is interesting – but imperfect

When it came out in 1984, ‘Red Dawn’ was an interesting project.

It was the height of the Cold War – and Russia was a legitimate threat.

Now? I have a little trouble believing the invasion scenario put forth in the ‘Red Dawn’ reboot that debuted Wednesday.

Not only does North Korea manage to invade the entire western seaboard – cutting it off from the rest of the United States – but no one makes a move to take it back.

We’re the lone super power left in the world – so it’s kind of a stretch to think they would somehow manage to do this -- and do it within a couple of hours at that.

Still, I went in to see ‘Red Dawn’ with an open mind. I left feeling entertained – but empty.

The movie really doesn’t have any substance. It does have some interesting action scenes, though.

The big reason residents in this area will want to see it is because large portions of it were filmed in Macomb and Oakland counties. Oh, and it boasts Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson in lead roles.

Let’s talk about the scenery first. Denizens of the area will recognize certain places. The film opens up on Fraser’s football field – which I recognize from covering countless games there.

There’s also a scene at The Mitt, in downtown Mount Clemens, where the characters leave a local bar and an establishing shot captures the main drag in Mount Clemens – including the county building and the courthouse.

The coolest shot happens when the attack is in its initial stages and downtown Mount Clemens – which is supposed to double for Spokane, Wash. – is shown (in all its glory) as the power is stripped from the city.

There are battle scenes that were filmed on Mount Clemens streets. And, while it’s cool to know they were filmed in town, there really is no way to differentiate one street from another. Although, I did see a couple businesses I knew on Cass Ave. in the background of at least two shots.

The two other main locations in the film are a cave – where the kids hide out – and a family cabin that is ultimately abandoned. Both locations could be anywhere.

The good thing about the movie is that it’s only an hour and a half long – so it doesn’t drag.

This scene was filmed inside The Mitt.
Hemsworth anchors the cast – and he does give it some gravitas. Fans should realize he was cast in this long before he became easily recognizable as Thor.

Hutcherson is also steady – although his role is smaller – and he offers some of the only comedic relief in the film – including an absolutely hilarious raid on Subway.

As the chief bad guy, Will Yun Lee is solid – but he’s given so little background he remains an enigma throughout the filme.

The other standout in the bunch is Josh Peck – which really surprised me. Until now, his claim to fame was being a Disney kid. He’s actually the heart of the film – and he does a good job being believable. His chemistry with Hemsworth – they portray brothers – is probably the strongest thing the film has to offer.

Not all of the cast is good, though. Both Isabel Lucas and Adrianne Palicki were clearly cast for their looks – because neither one of them can act (especially Lucas). They seem to be there just to add sexual tension to the film.

Connor Cruise, Tom Cruise’s son, is also pretty weak. There’s a scene, towards the end of the film, where we’re supposed to feel sad for his character. I was just glad to see him go. Cruise’s Daryl is also at the center of one of the main conflicts of the film – what to do when you’re family member is a collaborator – but he can’t really carry the storyline.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan swoops in in the final 20 minutes to give the kids a mission – and hope – but he barely registers in his brief screen time.

My biggest complaint, though, isn’t even the acting. The film was shot with the “shaky cam” theory in mind. Meaning, in the middle of an intense action scene, the camera is shaking so badly you think you’re in the middle of an earthquake.

I know it’s an artistic choice – but it really bothers me. It’s hard to follow the action when you can’t even see what’s happening on screen.

In the end, I liked a lot that ‘Red Dawn’ had to offer – and I loved seeing local areas on film – but ‘Red Dawn’ is never going to win any awards.

And, if I’m being truthful, ‘Red Dawn’ isn’t memorable either.

The original ‘Red Dawn’ had a hopeful ending but a bleak outcome – since most of the kids were killed off.

There are a handful of kids killed off in this film – but you can pretty much gauge who is going to die pretty early on. There’s only one surprise death – and one ambiguous ending. ‘Red Dawn’ might have more staying power if they’d shown the actual horrors of war and killed off more of the main kids – but today’s audiences would have balked at that, I’m sure. I think it would have also been more powerful if the film had spent some time in the internment camps.

Basically, if you want to see the area on film – and you can swallow a few plot contrivances – go check out ‘Red Dawn.’ If you’re going to complain about the probability of this being able to happen – just let it go. This isn’t the movie for you.

What do you think? Will you see ‘Red Dawn’ just because it was filmed in the area?


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