Yet another infantile right-wing fantasy from writer-director John Milius, this cinematic embodiment of the paranoid delusions of militarists, survivalists, and television evangelists is definitely a film for the Reagan era. It's as if the clock has turned back to the mid-1950s, when short
subjects like RED NIGHTMARE (in which a man wakes up one morning to find his small American town taken over by Communists) and COMMUNISM AT OUR DOOR were presented to scare the daylights out of the complacent public. After an unconvincing explanation of the origins of a conventional war between
the US and the USSR, RED DAWN begins as students in a small town in the Northwest watch in amazement as Russian and Cuban troops parachute in and open fire. A few clever kids (Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, Darren Dalton, Jennifer Grey, and Brad Savage) jump in a
pickup truck and hightail it to the general store, stocking up on food, weapons, and ammo. Then they head for the mountains, where they stage guerrilla operations on par with those undertaken in the Soviet-Afghan war. Meanwhile, after token resistance from the adults, the Commies install an
occupation government--the Soviet commander, Strelnikov (William Smith), putting a Cuban, Bella (Ron O'Neal), in charge. The male American adults are then rounded up and held in a drive-in theater-cum-reeducation camp, where their sadistic Soviet captors force them to watch Russian director Sergei
Eisenstein's 1938 classic ALEXANDER NEVSKY (needless to say, this sequence is unintentionally hilarious). Back in town, Communist propaganda springs up everywhere, and dreaded breadlines begin to form. In the mountains, the teenagers have some success ambushing armed columns of the invasion force,
aided by a recluse (Ben Johnson) and a downed fighter pilot (Powers Boothe).
The rumination of an adolescent sensibility--wholly lacking in plausibility, character development, or social observation--RED DAWN would be much more offensive if it weren't so darn silly. Badly paced and poorly executed, the film even fails as an action movie. Unintentional laughter erupts in
nearly every scene, and the characters are so cliched and broadly sketched that there are no surprises at all. The cast struggles to make the material believable, with Harry Dean Stanton scoring the only memorable moment as the imprisoned father of one of the boys. RED DAWN is simply too
simplistic and inept to be taken seriously.
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