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Originally published Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 3:00 PM

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'Red Dawn': Remake is off target

A review of "Red Dawn," a movie that's all about the boom-boom and empty-headed patriotism. Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson star.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 1.5 stars

'Red Dawn,' with Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Josh Peck, Adrianne Palicki, Isabel Lucas. Directed by Dan Bradley, from a screenplay by Carl Ellsworth, Jeremy Passmore and Tony Gilroy. 114 minutes. Rated PG-13 for violence, language. Several theaters.

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Amazing how the back-story tells the truth: We are afraid of China's rising power... MORE
North Korean soldiers? What, are they looking for food? MORE
The original at least had, well, originality, even if it lacked much in believability... MORE

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Was anybody out there clamoring for a remake of "Red Dawn"? Show of hands? Anybody?

Didn't think so.

The original is a movie of its time, an artifact of the Reagan era and the dying days of the Cold War. Released in 1984, writer-director John Milius' right-wing fever dream about a Cuban-Soviet invasion of the U.S. — where a group of small-town Colorado teens (led by Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen) form a guerrilla band to resist the Communist invaders — had a certain loopy resonance with the zeitgeist of those days. But now? Not so much.

In the age of al-Qaida, it's hard to see how a movie about a North Korean invasion of the U.S., with Russian help, ever got a green light by the geniuses in Hollywood. Oh, wait. In its original form, the film was about a Chinese invasion of the U.S. But then, according to the Los Angeles Times, China's big and growing market for U.S. movies became a concern. So in deference to Chinese sensibilities, it was decided some tweaks were needed.

As it happened, MGM got into financial trouble and the movie, made in 2009, had to be shelved for several years. While that highly publicized mess was being untangled, the makers went in and rewrote and digitally reworked footage to convert the invaders to North Koreans. Big whoop. It's still a nonsensical picture.

Think of it as a kiddie version of "The Expendables." It's all about the boom-boom. A group of high-schoolers from Spokane (Michigan stands in for Washington) under the leadership of the Marine brother of one of them (Chris Hemsworth), hide in the woods, arm themselves with rifles and later automatic weapons and then shoot the living daylights out of scores of North Korean soldiers who obligingly serve as sitting-duck targets for the kids.

The original had fairly well-defined characters. In this new version, the kids are ciphers. The ending of the original is fairly grim; this new version literally waves the flag. Empty patriotism in an empty-headed movie.

Soren Andersen: asoren7575@yahoo.com

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