Action Movie Fanatix Review: Red Dawn (1984)

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In Our Time No Foreign Army Has Ever Occupied American Soil.  Until Now.

Starring: Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Grey, Ben Johnson, Harry Dean Stanton, Ron O’Neal, William Smith, Powers Boothe

Director: John Milius

1984  |  114 Minutes  |  PG-13

“All that hate’s going to burn you up, kid. – Andy
“Keeps me warm” – Robert

Just like with Judge Dredd, the remake of Red Dawn made me want to go back and rewatch the original and I just never got around to it until now.

A group of teenagers joins together to defend their hometown and their country from invading Soviet and Cuban forces.  Calling themselves the Wolverines, Jed (Patrick Swayze), Robert (C. Thomas Howell), Matt (Charlie Sheen), Daryl (Darren Dalton), Aardvark (Doug Toby), Erica (Lea Thompson) and Toni (Jennifer Grey) use guerrilla tactics to fight the much larger and more heavily armed enemy forces.

I never saw Red Dawn through the eyes of a kid scared of the Cold War.  Even though I was alive for a part of the Cold War, it certainly never registered for me that there was anything to be afraid of.  As a kid this was one of those movies that made me feel like I could stand up and fight if the situation actually occurred.  Now I know how ridiculous that would be but the emotions are still there.

Red Dawn has one of the most memorable opening scenes around with the Russians and Cubans parachuting down into the field behind the high school as the kids sit in class.  I don’t imagine they could pull off this scene anymore with sensitivity over school shootings.  The whole movie is really pretty violent by today’s PG-13 standards and doesn’t shy away from violence against the kids/teens.

The acting isn’t the best but the characters are still enough to get behind.  There is an immaturity to the characters that doesn’t seem 100% intentional but is fitting for teenagers in this situation.  They would say stupid things and sound stupid saying it.  If you have been around teenagers recently, you know how accurate this is.

Lea Thompson reminds me of the feral boy from The Road Warrior.  She is mostly silent but grunts once in a while.  Once I recognized this comparison, I couldn’t get it out of my head and kept cracking up every time she was on screen.

At a certain point the action scenes start to feel a little disjointed as they are rarely set up by anything so we don’t necessarily feel the importance of each battle other than simply staying alive.  This is probably my only major complaint about Red Dawn.  Overall I still love it.

I look at Red Dawn as a sort of coming of age action movie.  It is like the Wonder Years if Kevin, Paul and Winnie were fighting the Russians.  Is it realistic?  Probably not but that is all a part of what makes it so great.  As a kid this was the type of movie that got me all fired up and ready to kick some ass because it made me think that I actually could kick Ruskie ass at that age.  As much as I love Rambo, I don’t look at First Blood and say, “I could do that.”  Red Dawn engaged my imagination in a way that even the great Rambo could not and watching it now brings back all those feelings I had when I first watched so many years ago.

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