Blu-ray Review: Red Dawn (2012)

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The producers of Red Dawn, a remake based on the 1984 John Milius-directed film of the same name, must be thanking their lucky stars they cast Chris Hemsworth in the lead role. Production on Dawn began in 2009, but was shut down after controversy erupted over the choice of China as the villainous invader coupled with MGM having filed for bankruptcy. Once the studio’s financial troubles were resolved and the anti-U.S. aggressor was changed to North Korea, production resumed. By that time, Hemsworth had shot to stardom in Thor and The Avengers. They also were lucky to have The Hunger Games’ Josh Hutcherson in a prominent supporting role.

Just as the original saw the Russians invading and subsequently occupying the U.S., brothers Jed and Matt Eckert (Hemsworth and Josh Peck, respectively) awake one morning to the chaos of a full-blown North Korean invasion in their Spokane, Washington neighborhood. Their old man Tom (Brett Cullen) urges them to fight rather than bow down to the occupiers, even if it means death. Along with a group of friends, they form a rebellious group called the Wolverines. Jed is a Marine amongst a bunch of high schoolers, so naturally he assumes the role of leader as the group trains in a remote, wooded location.

Red Dawn group (350x233).jpg

There’s plenty of action but the main problem with Red Dawn is that the characters aren’t developed enough to care about. The unlikeliness of the occupation itself (where is the U.S. military response?) and plot’s lack of structure would be easier to accept if the characters were the least bit endearing. I think that’s one of the reasons the ’84 original was so much better, even without being a great movie itself. Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen were so much more memorable and heartfelt as the Eckert brothers, as was Harry Dean Stanton as their father. Despite the best efforts of the new cast (which also includes Connor Cruise, Tom’s son), there’s nothing to hang onto here.

Red Dawn looks awesome on Blu-ray. It’s becoming easy to take high definition quality for granted these days, as there’s little excuse for a new studio production to look less than excellent. There are only so many ways of commenting on how much fine detail is evident here. Shot on 35mm film by cinematographer Mitchell Amundsen, Red Dawn arrives on Blu-ray with a splendid 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer framed at 2.40:1. So, at the risk of sounding woefully redundant, there does happen to be an incredible amount of detail discernible even during the most frantic action sequences. It’s a very strong visual presentation.

Red Dawn outside (350x233).jpg

If you’re after a rocking audio experience, Red Dawn’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix delivers. Even before the invasion begins, the football game early on hints at how immersive this track gets, with highly active crowd noise in the rear channels. Once the invasion is underway, the audio barrage ensues. Helicopters, car crashes, explosions, and plenty of gunfire—it all combines for a fantastic, you-are-there extravaganza. Most decently budgeted new releases sound good on Blu-ray, but this one really works with lots of aural excitement.

Where special features are there? There’s nothing here, although the Blu-ray does come with a standard DVD and digital copy. While it’s kind of odd that there aren’t some deleted scenes or something, I suspect most viewers will be so depressed by how uninspired this film is they won’t necessarily be craving more.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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