In a small suburban town in Massachusetts, a couple miles out of Boston, a high school football team settles in on a quiet Sunday morning, 2 points down from it’s biggest rival. The crowd is hushed as the home team kicker lines up the game winning field goal. Just as the ball is hiked a motorist bellows the name of the team’s mascot and it echoes across the field. The interruption disorients the kicker and he squibs the kick ten feet to the left. It is not a good day to be a Westwood Wolverine. At least that’s how I imagine what happened when I shouted “WOLVERINES” out my window as I sped past the school that day. At most I caught a few onlookers by surprise, and they probably just remember some weirdo laughing hysterically at his own joke as his car passed by.
Back before we were all afraid of terrorists, we were afraid of Russians. You may notice how all “bad guys” from the 80’s had a Russian accent. It was the thing to do. America has always had trouble trusting them, even back as “Allies” during the big one. The relationship between the two nations is somewhat like that of an old drinking buddy from high school that always had a hair trigger when it came to the big birthmark on his cheek… except you haven’t seen him in years, and now he’s a cokehead. So how do you attempt to make eye contact in conversation without him thinking you’re looking at his birthmark?
Boy, this conversation went south pretty quickly.
Directed by John Milius (Conan the Barbarian) Red Dawn is packed with 80’s icons; Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson, C. Thomas Howell, and Powers Boothe. The story opens with an mid-western Colorado town awakening as it does every weekday. As the students begin settling down at the high school, out the window they notice thousands of Soviet paratroopers. The Soviets invade and occupy the area as the first strike in World War III.
A handful of teenagers escape the town into the mountains as the horrors of war take hold of the life they once knew. The small group of teens take to guerrilla warfare against the Soviet invaders. Using their old high school mascot as their warcry, the Wolverines strike back at the Cuban and Russian troops enough to become a priority of their Generals to eliminate.
Good News, it looks like Taco Bell is still open
Due to the violence, Red Dawn is the first movie to get the PG-13 rating. Prior to this PG was the one and only bridge between G and R.
The movie doesn’t dive into the details of World War III, it really keeps the story localized and focused on the teens struggling to adapt and the town being ravaged by it’s oppressors. This focus relays the feeling of isolation to the audience, as if you are there as well, cut off from the outside world.
The film doesn’t sugarcoat the realities of war, which is hard to stomach at times, because the audience cannot help but relate to the innocent townspeople caught in the crossfire.
The performances of the cast are all overshadowed by Jed, played by Patrick Swayze. He steps up as the leader of the Wolverines with honest emotion and a devotion to his younger brother Matt. (Played by Charlie Sheen in his film debut)
“Back then no-one believed me when I said one day pedophile glasses will be cool”
This movie is depressing. In contrast to most fictional war movies from that era like Missing in Action and Rambo II, where the audience roots for constant cartoonish destruction and violence, this movie actually shows the horrors of war. More importantly it show the consequences of the insurgent teenagers’ actions, carried out with mass murders of the civilians by enemy troops.
Most movies omit this “retribution” although it is a reality; it can really change the lasting impression of the film if the audience is hoping for a “fun” war movie with no backlash against the innocent. Imagine if Hans Gruber’s brother just killed John McClane’s family in Die Hard 3 because that’s what a real terrorist would do? No, instead he sets up a series of obstacle courses and puzzles for Bruce Willis to solve. They don’t want to start the fun action movie out with a complete bummer. It’s the realism of Red Dawn that makes it feel a bit too authentic to be an action movie and it ends up more of a drama.
In almost complete contradiction to what I just said, although the horrors of war are captured, the gunfights and shooting are just awful. Many times it looks as if the guns were just toy cap guns with barely any recoil while the Soviets getting shot would just run around and fall down like kids playing cowboys and Indians in the woods.
At one point during a snowy shootout, there was a Russian soldier just hanging out by a tree, I don’t even think he knew he was on camera. He eventually figures it out and flails to the ground. Perhaps the “realism” of death in movies over the past 30 years has spoiled us to the point this film seems grossly unrealistic when it comes to the gunplay.
“What the F! this gun needs more recoil. I don’t feel like I’m realling killing anyone!”
It’s haunting. The music, the content. Very “John Carpenter-esk” After watching it I feel sad. Not the “moving sadness” you get from movies like Turner and Hooch, more like a depression. Not to mention the image of the kid that “didn’t duck in time” dangling out the window at the school in the beginning has stuck with me, giving me the creeps ever since I was seven. After seeing this at a young age, I remember planning my escape route into the woods at the beginning of every school year in case I ever saw a sky full of Russians. I vowed never to be “that kid”.
Don’t look here for a “fun” action movie. I can’t say I “enjoyed it” but I certainly couldn’t stop watching. Some of the imagery was outstanding. If there was ever a movie that SCREAMED to be remade, this is it. With the special effects in today’s movies, a remake of this movie would be an instant hit (so long as Hollywood resists the urge to incorporate a “sassy urban stereotype” or any other canned characters in it, as they seem to do with every remake now) Anyway, I’d be first in line yelling “WOLVERIIIINNNEEESSS!”
Bonus Drinking Games
Take a Drink: anytime the sound of gunfire doesn’t match the actual gunfire
Take a Drink: anytime you have trouble hearing what someone says
Take a Drink: if/when you find Powers Boothe “creepy” with Lea Thompson
Take a Drink: whenever someone cries
Down a Shot: whenever a Wolverine dies
Down a Shot: for every “WOLVERIIINNNNEEEES”