Home > Sunday Screening Films > Sunday Screening #25: Red Dawn

Sunday Screening #25: Red Dawn

For our triumphant return, I decided that a good starting place for Sunday Screenings would be to revisit John Milius’ 1984 film Red Dawn. Now I’m not going to take all the credit, as my friend Will really planted this movie in my head (he’s hosting a screening of it later tonight to celebrate Independence Day). I want to say that I’ve seen most of this movie, years ago, but it’s been a really long time so I’m not 100% sure what to say about it. It’s got Swayze, which is really all a movie needs to make it more kick-ass then a movie with no Swayze. There are guns, fighting off commies, and the drinking of deer blood…what more do you need in a movie?

I’m excited to hear what everyone thinks about this movie. Oh, and you can’t forget “WOLVERINES!!!”


  1. July 3, 2011 at 2:05 PM

    I had no idea what to expect watching Red Dawn. I never paid much attention to it because I lumped it in with all of those ’80s action movies where lots of guns get fired and shit blows up good. Not really a fan of those kinds of movies (and seriously, did that genre just pop up in 1984 fully formed?)

    I pretty much expected something utterly ridiculous but fun. And for a while it was. The way the invading forces freely opened fire on the school was awesome. I enjoyed playing “Hey! It’s… (Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell, Jennifer Grey, Lea Thompson, Harry Dean Stanton, etc).” The inclusion of the “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands” bumper sticker and having the gun pried from his cold dead hands made me think the movie was going to have a sense of humor. Unfortunately, it didn’t.

    That’s my biggest problem with Red Dawn. It plays it too seriously. I was more than willing to toss plausibility out the window (I’m reading Hitchcock/Truffaut right now and just got done reading about how Hitchcock doesn’t care much for plausibility, so I am probably especially susceptible to letting that go right now), but if your basic premise is going to be so absurd — a group of high schoolers, two of whom have hunted, fight off an army — then don’t try to force me to take the movie seriously. And if you want me to take it seriously, then don’t leave dangling questions like, “where are the American forces?” and “why, if the Commies are looking for this group, aren’t they more vigilant about their comings and goings in and out of town?” or “why can’t the Commies see the camp at night with the fires burning and lights on?”

    I think it’s a testament to the movie that I didn’t hate it even with the above problems and the lack of much good acting (the addition of Powers Boothe in the middle helped a ton on that front). It was fun to see C. Thomas Howell turn into a badass solely because it’s C. Thomas Howell (maybe I like it because he goes through a similar transition, though much slower, in The Hitcher). I really liked the inference that Lea Thompson’s character got anally raped when she flipped out at Sheen when he asks, “what’s up your ass?” There was also some nifty background action like the huge explosion near the beginning of the movie when they make it to the mountains.

    Red Dawn could have been a little shorter for what it was, but I’m not unhappy I watched it, though I doubt it will hold up much better a second time. Much like “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” exists so people can shout, “Leonard Bernstein!,” Red Dawn seems to exist for people to shout, “Wolverines!”

    That’s all I got for now. Looking to hear what others have to say.

  2. Lisa
    July 3, 2011 at 11:20 PM

    Can I just say that I was super excited to get notification. I’ve missed you guys. (cue the sentimental sigh…)

    I have yet to see this, bit I’m pretty stoked to watch it. Its a classic 80s movie I not only missed, but one I have to watch before the stupid remake.


    • July 4, 2011 at 12:22 PM

      We’re glad to be back. We talked about it a few months ago but never got off our butts, which is ironic because we don’t have to get off our butts to do this in the first place.

      • Lisa Mejia
        July 5, 2011 at 3:30 PM

        Either way, I’m glad it’s back. And of course, I’m already behind…

  3. Lisa Mejia
    July 7, 2011 at 11:12 PM

    I’m only a few days behind.
    Red Dawn is/was on my list of movies to watch, so I was excited I could kill two Commies with one stone. Too soon?

    I love action. I grew up on it (military brat) and this was one of those movies that was a “Pro America” film. I can’t say I’m too disappointed, but I definitely wasn’t fulfilled.

    I totally agree with you Nate, I loved the opening. The way it opens with a typical day at school, being dropped off by the football star alumni/brother, then straight into invasion during history class was awesome. To some extent, it seemed like that would be the likely way we would be invaded, a huge surprise.

    I was okay with the acting, I kept playing “Seven Degrees of 80s Teen Stars.” They were in this, Patrick and C Thomas were in Outsiders, Jennifer and Charlie in Ferris Buller, Patrick and Jennifer in Dirty Dancing…
    I was even okay with the concept of high schoolers taking up arms to protect themselves and fight. And again, I agree with you, Nate, on the C. Thomas evolution. It rocked.

    What got me was the timeline. Only a month passed and they had become experts and plastered Wolverines everywhere. Then they make a trip into town, where the Commies are looking for them, and they make it in and out with no problem? And yes, the fire in the night issue. It seemed like it was a concept movie, no story or character development/background. That bothered me. I didn’t totally catch Erica’s issue when she flipped on Matt, but she was okay with falling for a military man? Even if he was an American, I would of thought the whole uniform thing would of been an issue. I wanted to know more, more about them. Also, if the Rebels, AKA Americans, have heard about the Wolverines, where the eff where they? Whatever happened to “Leave No Man Behind?”

    To sum this movie up, I’d say it was a modern day propaganda film.

    Now, not sure if you’re aware, but they have remade this, November 2011 release date. Chris “Thor” Hemsworth is Jed, Josh “Josh and Drake” Peck as Matt, Isabel Lucas, Josh Hutcherson, Connor “Mini Cruise” Cruise, Adrianne Palicki, and Jeffery Dean Morgan. This time we fight the North Koreans, and this time there is an interesting plot. I ignored the spoiler warnings and read the synopsis, and I’m impressed. I’m interested in checking it out. I dare say I think it will be better?

    I’m glad I finally saw this movie, but I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to watch it again.

    • July 8, 2011 at 1:18 AM

      Yay! Someone to talk to (about the movie)!

      I think, in America, it’s never too soon to start talking about killing Commies. You’re in the clear.

      During the opening, I wrote down a note to myself that the lesson was going to come back in the end and help the Wolverines defeat their Commie foe, but to the best of my recollection, they didn’t use it at all. I was a little disappointed about that. As long as someone is making an “America!” movie, they may as well make an “American schools!” movie, too. But perhaps even in 1984 our schools were circling the drain and no one wanted to face that reality.

      I was suspicious of the military man right up until he died. It all seemed too perfect that we see no hint of American forces trying to help out the Wolverines yet here’s an American soldier sleeping under his parachute. I know they were suspicious at first, too, but it seemed like someone should’ve been suspicious until the end. Which makes Lea Thompson falling in love with him seem even more ridiculous to me.

      But yes, Lisa, you’re right. Characterization goes a long way and with a cast this size, they failed to motivate everyone properly or even make them more than cardboard cutouts. I guess Sheen and Swayze were pretty well done in that I bought that they were brothers and had a complicated relationship with each other and their dad, but there were definitely shortcuts taken and bad exposition getting there. The whole “never cry” thing was interesting, if silly, but the more I think about it, the better I like it. Especially since each of the brothers eventually break down. It’s like the movie is trying to tell us that real men don’t cry, but they do and that’s OK.

      I didn’t read the spoiler-y plot synopsis, but looking at the director and writers, I’m tempering my excitement. The director was/is largely a stunt man and one writer seems like he ran out of original ideas with Red Eye and the other, well, he hasn’t done much so I can’t say.

      • Lisa Mejia
        July 10, 2011 at 6:20 PM

        Hey Nate. Sorry for the late reply.
        First things first, this isn’t a good movie to watch right before you go to bed…I had a dream my neighborhood was being invaded by Russians.

        I really wanted the History lesson to come back into play, but when it didn’t know what to think about it. In retrospect, it seems weird to even be in the story. It could of been a math lesson, I wonder what the ultimate point of it being Genghis Khan was.

        I love Powers Booth, but I don’t think his character is necessary to the story. The only really thing he does for the story is say that the middle of the country is on its own and invaded. There could of been another way to relay that message without bringing in new character for like 10 minutes.

        I agree with you that the brothers are the only ones who had any kind of story, but even then they were barley keeping the movie together. I really wish they would of gone more into the Cuban officer. They touched a little bit on how he was part of Castro’s rebellion, that he understood where the kids were coming from. That’s a huge thing, especially since Castro now is completely different from the Castro then. See, the history lesson should of been Castro and that rebellion instead of the Mongols.

        While I haven’t looked into the crew behind the remake, the plot seems interesting. I hope that they can portray that in the film, because there was an actual story and conflict. For once a remake has more of a story than the original.

        • July 10, 2011 at 11:03 PM

          Did the Russians win? Was it the Russians of the ’80s or the Russians for today? Did you fight them off? These questions must be answered.

          Knowing that John Milius is kind of a crazy man, maybe he was just way into Ghengis Kahn at the time. I don’t really know much about Kahn’s methods and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure didn’t really teach me much more than he has bad mall etiquette. Maybe he was meant to be a metaphor for the Commie invasion?

          I don’t want to get too critical of Powers Booth simply because he’s the only person in the film who gave it some life. I hate nearly everything about that subplot, but I was happy to have him on board. I kind of wish they would have brought him in earlier and had him try to win their trust longer. Killing him so quickly was pretty uninteresting.

          You’re absolutely right about the Cuban leader. He could have been a much more interesting character. There was clearly a lot of backstory that was inferred poorly. Knowing more about him would have given weight to his actions at the end when he left the brothers go. As it stands, it’s mostly a copout.

  4. Lisa Mejia
    July 11, 2011 at 8:51 AM

    Ha. It wasn’t a war, yet. The Russian, I believe it was the 80s Russians, were just setting up camp/base in my neighborhood. I was worried they were going to try to come into my house and use it for something. I tried to think of what I could use to defend myself. I don’t have any guns, so I think I building myself up to use my boxing skills if needed.

    One of the biggest things I took away from my study of the Mongols was their method of rumors. They would send out people ahead of the army to tell horrible stories of what the Mongols did to this other village and what they could do to this new one. If the new village wanted to avoid carnage, they just had to surrender when Ghengis Khan got there. A lot of the times they would surrender, and the Mongols conquered most areas without even fighting. I think this is what they talked about in class, but I honestly didn’t pay that much attention to it. I was focused on the parachutes falling behind the students.

    I wish they would of kept Booth for the rest of the movie. He did add layers and it would of been interesting to see him in the final battle. But, having him there for just that bit, was a bit odd.
    I don’t think the Cuban leader was a copout, but I think his part was cut out. The movie was already closing in on 2 hours, and I think they cut some of the story to make it within the time allowed. What sucks, is that by cutting some of it (if that’s what happened) they just gave you a taste of what could of been and the rest was just confusing.

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