johnlink ranks RED DAWN (1984)

I had somehow got it in my head that this was a typical 80s action flick which had Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen fighting Commies. I suppose I never looked past the cover art to see that this was actually the story of an invasion of the US and the start of WWIII and that the good guys were high school students fighting guerrilla style from the woods. Hey, you can call that a lot of things. Typical is not one of them! SPOILERS BELOW

I watched RED DAWN (1984) on 11.23.10. It was my first viewing of the film. TRAILER HERE

There is actually quite a lot to talk about here, which is much more than I expected to say when I turned this on. It is interesting to look at the contrast between this and the recently watched RED HEAT. Made in 1984 RED DAWN has a pure hatred for the Russian and the Commies. After the film’s release, Gorbachev gains power in 1985 and he and Reagan begin to draw down the Cold War. Made in 1988, RED HEAT shows that uneasy relationship. The Russian officer can come to the US to gather his target, but the US government is not to be trusted, and vice versa.

But where that film attempts to show (unsuccessfully perhaps) some of the cultural differences between the US and the USSR, RED DAWN is an unabashedly American film. Not that it is afraid to paint an American as opportunistic or fearful or sadistic, but it certainly celebrates American values.

The surprise for me of this film was how much it went into that darker subject matter. This feels like a particularly 80s film in tone. There is a fierce masculinity to this film which someone with more time than I could write a book about. Swayze regards crying as if it is some badge of shame (though he succumbs himself in the end) and the women are de-feminized, with their giant phallic guns and bulky clothes shading their femininity. There is little romance to be found, just male Patriotism.

In a lesser movie this would be a negative, but RED DAWN is willing to explore that violence when it goes unchecked. Friends are shot and killed for betrayal, and enemies are executed.

But this movie has its flaws. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a film with a more unbelievable premise. And I’m not even talking about Communists occupying a town. But that a half dozen high school guerrillas could sabotage the entire thing. They have seemingly unlimited access to rocket launchers and grenades, and the enemy seems unable (and unwilling) to find them. The tactical absurdity of the Communists is baffling.

In a typical action flick, this wouldn’t matter. But this film attempts to be more. There are more emotionally ferocious scenes in this than in some dramas. The actors, for the most part, are able to pull it off. But the scene where Swayze tells everyone to ‘Turn their tears into something else’ about thirty times devolves into silliness.

The action is pretty well done. It does just start to get repetitive when the twist happens, so they handled that fairly well. The last scene is just absurd, right down to the villain becoming a conscious apologist after watching him have dozens and dozens of innocent people lined up and executed Nazi-style.

I think I need to give this movie six months and come at it again. I have a hard time ranking this, and I have no idea if other people take it seriously, or see it as just a fun 80s flick. It certainly was better than I thought it would be, and I think some of my disappointment comes from the fact that it doesn’t quite get all the way there.


FILM: 6; MOVIE: 8; ACTING: 6; WRITING: 5 (What is this?)



~ by johnlink00 on November 24, 2010.

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