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Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Retro Review: Red Dawn (1984)

Red Dawn
Cast: Patrick Swayze, C Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Grey, Powers Boothe, Harry Dean Stanton
Genre: War Film
U.S Box Office Gross: over $38 million

Plot: It's the dawn of World War III: in mid-West America, a group of teenagers band together to defend their town & their country from invading forces

'What A Yawn'

1984's Red Dawn sees a bunch of teenagers fighting to protect their territory from incoming Russians and Cubans, after they land on a football field in a school and they end up killing everyone, with the teens fleeing for their safety. Armed with only bows and arrows and rifles, the teens fight for their lives. The film is mostly remembered as an earlier career launchpad for the likes of Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen and Lea Thompson, rather than for any other reason. The film also spawned a 2012 remake with The Avengers's Chris Hemsworth as Jed, a role previously held by Swayze himself. 

I didn't feel a single thing for any of the main characters as Red Dawn is just a war film that drones on and on and is virtually dull as dishwater. It fails to develop the characters in such a way that made me want to invest interest in them. I was a little baffled also as to why people in the Mid-West had Southern accents - until I remembered this film is set at around World War III. The performances as a whole weren't entirely great as the teens come across as one-note with barely anything to set them apart from one another. Although the scene with Lea Thompson letting rip at Charlie Sheen's character at the campfire was impressive. Her turn here is the most impressive I've seen of hers, without coming across as desperate and too emotive and it felt genuine, compared to her other roles that came after Red Dawn. Yet I did find the relationship between her character and Powers Boothe's a tad icky. It's a shame what has happened to her movie career since then. There is a brief pre-Dirty Dancing moment with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey; remember the line 'No one puts baby in a corner', well here it is more of 'put Toni under a tree' during one scene. The scene also where the Soviets shoot at the Americans as they sang the national anthem peaked my interest, briefly.

The combat scenes, where the characters shoot each other left, right and centre, were all right at first and it wastes no time in diving right into them when necessary. But then it can become so rudimentary and tiresome. And I suppose one good thing is with the teenagers they don't cower in fear and they take on the army, without hesitation, but the plot offers nothing daring to entice the movie. The teens either shoot the Soviets or engage in uttering anaemic dialogue. 

Red Dawn is as dreadfully stodgy as I'd expected, besides the action sequences, and it would have been even more dreary without them. So much so I fell asleep several times and but for a few of those scenes I've mentioned above, I wasn't missing much whatsoever and there was little value to take from a movie such as this. 

It was a movie ripe for excellence and due to its premise, it was touted as being one of the greats in '80s cinema. Yet coupled with character-less protagonists, no memorable antagonist, unengaging story and incredibly dull moments made this one tedious and arduous viewing and one that resembles a militia video. 

Final Verdict:

This war film turned out to be a boring film; I am not a fan of war-based movies but for Good Morning, Vietnam, & Red Dawn did practically nothing to change my opinion of them. 

Besides the pro-capitalism anti-communist stance it tried to take and regardless of the accusations of this film being nothing more than right-wing propaganda during the cold war, as an entertaining movie, Red Dawn still fails on all accounts. It wasn't fully and completely unwatchable, however. By injecting more inventiveness and creativeness that would have heightened this film further, it would have become something of a '80s classic in its own right.

I expected this to be fully engaging with well-rounded and in-depth characters & knock-out performances from a then fresh-faced Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, but as it stands, it's an uninspiring war film masquerading as a mediocre & cloying teen fest. 


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