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This year’s remake of the 1984 film “Red Dawn,” posing a World War Three-invasion scenario, made a valiant attempt to conquer a small section of the Thanksgiving holiday theater spread.
As with the original film, local hero Jed, played this time around by Chris Hemsworth, of “The Avengers,” leads a band of teen resistance fighters take back their hometown from invading aggressors.
To update the ordinal Reagan-era film, director Dan Bradley opens with a complex opening montage of newsreel footage to explain (or tries to explain) how the North Koreans could overrun a country with no formidable enemy.
Hemsworth’s Jed (a role somehow more comfortable on the original’s Patrick Swayze) this time is a returning war hero on leave from the Marines following a couple of tours in Afghanistan.
Jed returns to a chilly reception by father Det. Tom Eckert (Brett Cullen of “the Replacements”) and brother, Matt, (Josh Peck, the voice of Eddie in the “Ice Age” franchise) six years after the death of his mother.
Waking to find their community overrun by North Korean invaders, the brothers go into survival mode, making a break for the family’s cabin the country while collecting friends in a spectacular chase through suburbia to grab Matt’s girlfriend, Erica (the creepy blond electro-fatale in “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”).
The brothers arrive too late, and Erica is being herded into captivity with other dissidents.
Fleeing to the cabin, the group quickly encounters problems, when Jed reverting his war-hero mindset rejects Erica’s rescue to go on an offensive, while the less-than-disciplined team question Jed’s authoritative leadership.
The group, later take the name Wolverines – from the high school mascot, band include Robert, Josh Hutcherson (of “The Hunger Games,”) fresh-faced Connor Cruise, and Jed’s star-crossed love interest Adrianne Palicki (formerly of TV’s “Supernatural”).
It’s difficult to watch a remake and not compare it to the original. Going in it was apparent that Hemsworth had some pretty big combat boots to fill if he were to lead this new band of teens to post-apocalyptic greatness.
“In Afghanistan we were the good guys,” Jed tells the group early on, “there to enforce order. Now, we are the bad guys. We create chaos.”
Jed and his ragtag group of commandoes create enough chaos with both mission mishaps and well-orchestrated skirmishes to undermine the efforts of the invading army and gain the attention of a group of Marine insurgents, led by Lt. Tanner (“Supernatural’s” Dan Bradley, who is eerily similar to the original Tanner played by Powers Booth) sent to retrieve a secret communication device that could turn the war effort.
After rogue mission to rescue Erica, which cost a team member his life, Matt overcomes his guilt to follow is his brother’s footsteps.
Fending off a barrage of attacks from critics that quibble over the logic of the World War III scenario, “Red Dawn” is at times a dark drama that looks at deep-seated American insecurities: What would it be like if the foreign wars the nation has fought over the last 200 years were to take place in our streets – in our neighborhoods?
To sum up the band’s loss of innocence, reluctant young warrior Robert (played by Hutcherson) quips from his billet following a mission, “Dude, we’re living ‘Call of Duty,’ and it sucks.”
Overall, what “Red Dawn” lacks in originality it makes up with action.
Each battle sequence is cleverly choreographed. The rebel-rousing victories show creativity and skill.
While the Wolverines may not vanquish their foes by the end, for better or worse, this round of would-be warriors have at lease earned a place along side their original counterparts.