Friend o' the blog acrannymint reminded us that today marks the debut of the long awaited Red Dawn
remake, which has been sitting in the can, relentlessly testing its shelf life for the past three years like some weird David Blaine stunt. What caused the delay of this hot and eagerly anticipated film? Well, it was shot in 2009, the same year Obama took office, so clearly Hollywood was hesitant to offend the Powers That Be by releasing a movie that tells the truth about Kim Il Jong's plans to conquer America by sneaking his army into the U.S. and having them plug in a bunch of blenders and blow combs and VCRs all at once, thereby tripping our national circuit breakers and making it impossible for us to retaliate because our clock radios would be all screwed up and our armed forces would oversleep. Also, taking out the electrical grid in the Pacific and Mountain Time Zones would render it impossible for the Navy to launch ICBMs from sea, because apparently our submarines are all electric now and are connected to the mainland power grid by really long extension cords.
Anyway, cranny went on to write, "In honor of the new version, you really need to repost the original" review, which appears in Better Living Through Bad Movies
(in fact, we devote an entire chapter to it). So here you go. We hope to compliment this with a review of the remake, as soon as certain financial reverses reverse themselves. In the meantime...WOLVERINES!
Directed by John Milius
Written by John Milius (the semen stains on the screenplay conﬁrm this) and Kevin Reynolds. Story by Kevin Reynolds
The story of Red Dawn
is familiar to anyone who had a C. Thomas
Howell-induced wet dream during the mid 1980’s: Russians and Nicaraguans
invade the United States after the Soviet Union suffers its “worst wheat
harvest in 55 years,” which somehow allows them to conquer the world. I
found this perplexing but inspiring, since I was recently ﬁned for
putting a Rubbermaid storage tub on my balcony. Taking a leaf from the
Commie playbook, I poured a bottle of Round-Up into the planter in the
courtyard and killed the hydrangeas, which should permit me to conquer
the Condo Board and rule the Homeowners Association with an iron hand.
Anyway, this lurid peek into John Milius’ porn collection clocks in at a
surprisingly epic 1 hour and 54 minutes, which admittedly sounds long
until you actually watch it, at which point you’ll swear that sometime
prior to the closing credits the Sun collapsed into a neutron star and
humanity evolved into a species of pure energy.
Our ﬁlm opens in South Park, Colorado. It’s a typical all-American
commuity, except they apparently don’t have cable TV, which means that
1) nobody has been able to switch on CNN and see that the Red Army has
invaded America, and 2) they won’t be able to enjoy this movie when it
eventually enters heavy rotation on HBO with Ice Castles
and The Beastmaster
Patrick Swayze drops his brother Charlie Sheen and Some Other Guy off at
South Park High, whose football team is named…the Wolverines. (Pay
attention! Later in the movie this seemingly trivial detail will become
an extremely important source of irritation.) It ﬁnally dawns on the
oblivious townsfolk that something is amiss when Soviet spetsnaz
troops parachute onto the campus and blow up the cafeteria. (Apparently
their battle plan read: 1) Secure major access roads. 2) Detain local
authorities. 3) Destroy all stockpiles of Sloppy Joes and Sporks.)
In the midst of the invasion, Patrick roars back into the parking lot to
pick up Charlie and Some Other Guy. Bullets and rocket propelled
grenades are ﬂying around the school, teachers are being cut down by
machineguns, busses are exploding and burning, but none of the kids
seems all that upset, since this basically gives them the equivalent of a
Cut to: a bumpersticker that reads, You’ll Get My Gun When You Pry It
From My Cold Dead Hands. Pan down to the vehicle’s owner, who is lying
dead in the street with a gun in his cold hand. A kindly Russian soldier
pauses to make the corpse’s dream come true.
Patrick collects a motley assortment of future direct-to-video stars and
drives them to a service station/armory run by C. Thomas Howell’s dad.
Suddenly, there’s an explosion in a distant vacant lot, and Patrick
realizes the special effects crew is closing in on them. Under Dad’s
expert guidance, they quickly gather up survival gear (soup, toilet
paper, a football) and weapons (.38 revolvers, Red Ryder BB guns, Jarts)
and pile into Patrick’s pickup.
They get about ten feet before the truck breaks down. The only way to ﬁx
it? Urinate into the radiator. (Although the truck bed is overloaded
with supplies, no one thought to bring Antifreeze, or even a bottle of water. They do have
several crates of New Coke, however). It should also be noted that
co-scenarist Kevin Reynolds again celebrated the salutary effects of man
piss ten years later in Waterworld
, where the Kevin Costner
character is introduced gulping down his own pee like a Jello shot.
Anyway, having voided their bladders for the cause of freedom, the
daring neo-Minute Men of Red Dawn
resume their panicky ﬂight.
Meanwhile back in South Park, the Soviet day players are conquering the
hell out of the town. Suddenly, through the billowing fog of war strides
Cuban revolutionary Ron O’Neil as Commandante Super Fly! A breathless
subordinate tells the Commandante that U.S. Army tanks are approaching
Super Fly doesn't care -- main battle tanks are easy. What really
worries him are the local Tea Party patriots who might just decide to
open a can of Second Amendment whoop-ass; for the Commandante knows that
these doughy, middle aged men have honed their predatory instincts
through many a half-drunken Saturday afternoon spent ﬁring randomly into
clumps of sagebrush in an effort to wing a pen-raised quail. The
Commandante orders a couple of loitering soldiers to go stop the Third
Armored Division, while he routs the real
enemy by sorting through a file cabinet at the sporting goods store.
How did it come to this? U.S. soil, invaded and occupied by the Red Army
and the Buena Vista Social Club! Well the movie was made in 1984, which
means the invasion took place during the end of Ronald Reagan’s ﬁrst
term of ofﬁce, a time when the President was admittedly having trouble
focusing on details. (He later delivered a stirring mea culpa: “A few
months ago I told the American people I did not let Russians and Cubans
invade the United States. My heart and my best intentions still tell me
that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.” Good
enough for me, Dutch!
Still, you have to wonder why we didn’t annihilate the invading Soviet
forces with any of those tens of thousands of thermonuclear weapons on
our ICBMs, B-1 bombers, and submarines. Well, the answer to that is two
little words: Good sportsmanship. Or we were so busy watching The Fall Guy
and Finder of Lost Loves
that we didn't notice we'd been invaded until the Russians were waiting for their luggage at the Denver Airport.
Meanwhile, the Band of Brothers and Other Guys have reached the
mounains, and are camping beside their piss-powered 4x4. Several of our
sniveling heroes suggest that the only rational course is surrender, but
Patrick Swayze is visibly a’swell with the spirit of patriotic deﬁance,
and will brook no whisper of capitulation. He delivers a spine-tingling
oration that puts Henry V’s St. Crispin’s Day speech to shame, with
lines like “Here, haul ass, take your shit!” and “This is your
chance—git walkin’!” Patrick and Charlie Sheen spontaneously hug.
Patrick shakes hands with Richard Beymer from West Side Story
then they all snuggle in close as Patrick explains that he and Charlie
have been coming up here to Brokeback Mountain for a lot of years, and
they can hunt and ﬁsh and avoid the invading Soviets and their
increasingly suspicious wives for a long time.
It’s now October. Patrick, Charlie, and C. Thomas are all heavily
accessorized with pine boughs and ferns (apparently they took time out
from the insurrection to appear in the second season of Project Runway
The camouflage suggests that these nascent guerrillas will use their
command of wood lore to approach their enemies unseen, or else we
caught them in the middle of some cosplay fantasy in which Treebeard
gets it on with that talking apple orchard from The Wizard of Oz
C. Thomas shoots a stag, and Patrick and Charlie haze C. by making him
drink its blood. “You gotta do it,” Patrick says, handing him a cup full
of steaming gore. C. gazes queasily into his beverage as Charlie
solemnly nods and murmurs, “Then you’ll be a real
then you’ll be an easily browbeaten moron with a mouthful of bloodborne
ruminant parasites, but let’s not quibble.
C. obligingly chugs it down and then grins at them through his blood
mustache, and they all exchange manly, plasma-soaked handshakes. Charlie
leans in close and conﬁdes to C., “My dad said, once you do that,
there’s gonna be somehing different about you.” Yeah. It’s called Lyme
As the group opens its last can of Campbell’s Chunky Smoked Chicken with
Roasted Corn Chowder, they ﬁgure, hey, it’s been a month; they really
ought to head to town and ﬁnd out what happened with their families and
that whole invasion thing.
As they approach South Park, Patrick, Charlie and Other Guy are shocked
to see that people are strolling around freely, the streets are safe and
quiet, the stores are open, and unlike, say, Baghdad in 2003, the town
apparently has running water and more than 3 hours of electricity a day.
So the main thing I learned from Red Dawn
is that George W. Bush should have subcontracted the invasion of Iraq to the Cubans.
Our heroes learn the Commie forces have rounded up local men in violation
of the Geneva Convention, and thrown them into a makeshift camp where
they rot away without due process. Fortunately the prison is at the
drive-in, so the boys can visit their impounded families and still catch
that double feature of Blame It on Rio
and Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment
But when they approach the camp under cover of darkness, the boys are
aghast at the conditions. Prisoners are beaten mercilessly during
interrogations and kept outdoors in a chain link enclosure like
animals. A voice drones constantly over the loudspeaker, “America is a
whorehouse,” while soul-crushing propaganda images ﬂash on the screen,
interrupted occasionally by that “Let’s All Go to the Snack Bar”
Patrick and Charlie ﬁnd their father, Harry Dean Stanton, who takes rather smug satisfaction in the news that his sons are alive. He gloats, “See? I was tough on
you—did things that made you hate me,” but apparently his
unique brand of discipline—the verbal abuse, the ﬂoggings with extension
cords, the forced chugging of doe blood—it built character. So I guess
the joke’s on them.
Dad sternly orders Patrick and Charlie to never cry again
the rest of their lives, then he’s dragged away, shrieking, “Avenge
me! AVENGE ME!” The boys turn and saunter off, their body language
seeming to say, “Yeah. Sure. We’ll get right on that, Pop.”
After the motivational death of their dad, Patrick, Charlie and C. head
on over to Old Man Exposition’s farm, where they learn that South Park
is in "O.T.," (which stands for "Occupied Territory") while the far side of Brokeback
Mountain is “F.A.” (which I assume is product placement for "Franco-American," the makers of SpaghettiOs).
Old Man Exposition tries to cheer up C. by revealing that the Russians
shot his Dad on account of all the guns and Fresca they took from his
gas station. C. feigns grief by letting out an ear-splitting shriek, then turning to the farmer’s wife
and burying his face in her ample and wizened décolletage (which is as close as we
ever get to sex in this movie).
As a consolation prize, Old Man Exposition gives the boys his
granddaughters (Lea Thompson and Jennifer Grey) as a consolation prize. He also
gives them horses; Jennifer gets her own stallion, but Lea has to ride
behind C., and she mounts up with a look that seems to say, “As soon as
they yell ‘cut!’ I’m calling my agent and accepting that Howard the Duck
Our heroes ﬁnally start the revolution by murdering three Russian
tourists who were in the midst of comically mistranslating a Forestry
Service dedication plaque. But they do a crappy job of it, and only
succeed in maiming the unarmed men. However, Patrick corners one of the
helpless victims, and summoning the courage of his frontier forefathers
and our 46th Vice President, shoots him in the face. (And then
presumably drinks his blood. Rules are rules.)
Jennifer and Lea also prove their mettle by catching up to another
seriously injured man as he crawls pathetically on hands and knees, and shooting
him in the back with a submachinegun. Apparently, this baptism of ﬁre
turns them into radical lesbian feminists, because later they angrily
refuse Charlie Sheen’s suggestion that they do the dishes. Charlie can’t
understand their righteous indignation, but for the sake of union cohesion he grudgingly tries to make peace
by offering to pay them for sex.
The Russians line up two dozen townspeople in front of a firing squad,
either in reprisal for the Wolverines' attack, or because they're
singing a rendition of “America the Beautiful” that’s really off-key and
grating. (Here’s a tip for future victims of Russo-Cuban atrocities:
When you get to the “above the fruited plain” part, never go up an
octave on “fruited” if you just don’t have the range for it.)
Commandante Super Fly orders the civilians gunned down before the local guerrillas can attack, and particularly before
they get a chance to belt out that stupid “O beautiful for Pilgrim feet”
Charlie observes the massacre while dressed like a sheave (with the
coming of fall, our heroes have naturally switched from ferns to wheat
and wild grasses to preserve that Fashion Forward look). When he later
returns to Brokeback and reports the mass murder, he breaks down and
weeps bitterly until Patrick grabs him and screams, “Don’t cry! Don’t
you ever cry again as long as you live! Don’t do it!” He tells Charlie,
who just saw their father murdered, to let his grief “turn into
something else.” Perhaps a butterﬂy, or a Pop-Tart—he doesn’t specify.
Back to the uprising. Jennifer Grey destroys a Soviet tank by giving the crew a booby-trapped picnic basket (as seen in Yogi Bear: The Final Conﬂict
Then, “the greatest pro-gun movie ever” proves that your deer riﬂe
really ain’t gonna cut it come the Conquering Commie Horde, because
suddenly our heroes have rockets and grenade launchers, Kalashnikovs and
.50 machine guns. They proceed to
slaughter the highly trained Soviet paratroopers, pausing only
occasionally to below, “Wolverines!” (Originally the insurgents called
themselves “The Magilla Guerrillas,” but the brand performed poorly in
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any more tedious, the Russkies
shoot down Top Gun Colonel Powers Boothe (callsign “Backstory”), who
tells the kids that America was conquered by illegal aliens. Apparently,
itinerant farm workers opened the door and “the whole Cuban and
Nicaraguan armies just waltzed right in” and took over the whole
country. I don’t know about you,
but my support for that UFW grape boycott is over!
The seasons pass. In real time. The snows come, and Patrick takes to
wearing a white burnoose like Lawrence of Arabia. Some tanks suddenly
appear and things get confusing: Ralph Macchio dies, and he wasn’t even
in this movie.
Richard Beymer goes to town, and in an astonishing twist, he’s betrayed
by his own father, captured by the Russians and tortured until he
swallows a tracking device that will lead the invaders right to the
Wolverines! Finally! Something exciting happens—too bad it all happens
off screen and we just get to hear about it later. Oh well.
Patrick decides to shoot Richard in the face, because frankly, he does
one thing, and he does it well. Afterwards, he sits alone and sobs, the
little hypocrite, while mooning over a picture of two 8-year old boys in
Little League uniforms. This is never explained, which I think is all
for the best.
The Russians decide to insult the Wolverines' intelligence by pushing
crates of food off moving trucks to lure them into a trap, and they
decide to fall for it. Our heroes collect and devour the
provisions—providing further proof, as if any were needed, that there is
nothing more exciting in an action ﬁlm than the sight of people eating
cornﬂakes--while the director seizes this belated opportunity to give
his characters a shred of personality by having Jennifer Grey squeeze
orange juice onto Patrick’s head.
Suddenly, a Soviet attack helicopter appears and shoots Jennifer in the
gut, which is tragic, because only moments ago she was so alive,
dribbling citrus juice on a mediocre actor’s do-rag. Patrick shouts,
“Nobody shoots Baby in the gut!” and throws her onto his horse and rides
away, but accidentally drops her.
C. thrusts his riﬂe in the air and bellows, “Wolverines!” which the
Russians interpret as a request to shoot him with a variety of projectiles
until he is primarily a stain. Meanwhile Jennifer, despite taking a
small rocket through the sternum and falling off a galloping horse is
still alive, which seems kind of cruel (what the hell do you have to do
to get out of this movie?) and she quite reasonably asks Patrick
to shoot her in the face. But suddenly he’s too much of a whimpering little pussy to pull the trigger.
“Give me a grenade,” she whispers. “I don’t want to be too cold.” Yeah.
That’ll warm you right up. She explodes, taking one of the Russkies
with her. Unfortunately, when it comes time to put her together again
after the stunt, they can't find her original nose and she has to go
with a loaner.
Back at Red Army HQ, tender, haunting music plays while Commandante
Super Fly writes a voice over to his wife, complaining about the
weather. It's a beautiful and moving scene, surprisingly evocative of
Ken Burns' The Civil War
. ("My Dearest Consuela...Snow blankets
this land in the chill mantle of death. My heart is heavy for want of
you, and my soul is sick with the desolation of war. So many of my
comrades lie dead or wounded, the people stare at us with the dull,
sullen gaze of caged beasts, and all of our radiators smell like piss.")
Patrick and a Russian Colonel face off in a Wild West style shootout.
“You lose,” Patrick sneers, just before the Colonel shoots him to
Although Patrick's lungs now contain a lavish assortment of bullets, he
still manages to lift the wounded Charlie -- who's losing a lot of tiger
blood -- and carry him to a playground, while Commandante Super Fly
watches and whispers, “Vaya con Dios.” They die together, embracing by a
Meanwhile, Lea and Some Other Guy re-enact the end of The Sound of Music
and walk over the mountains to F.A. (turns out it stood for "Free
America"). Then she morphs into John-Boy Walton and sums up the Third
World War with a pithy and listless voice over which reveals that even though everybody’s
dead, we won.