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'Red Dawn' a throwback to the Cold War thriller

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Photo - This film image released by Film District shows Jeffrey Dean Morgan, left, and Chris Hemsworth in a scene from "Red Dawn." (AP Photo/Film District)
This film image released by Film District shows Jeffrey Dean Morgan, left, and Chris Hemsworth in a scene from "Red Dawn." (AP Photo/Film District)
Entertainment,Movies,Kelly Jane Torrance

The original "Red Dawn" was released in 1984, five years before the Berlin Wall fell. The Cold War hadn't yet ended, so the film's vision of an America invaded by the Soviets -- with the help of their Cuban friends -- wasn't completely unimaginable.

The remake of "Red Dawn" comes nearly three decades later, after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks alerted the world to new dangers. Yet, the makers of the update don't seem to have taken notice of this brave new world. The only thing that might be a little different about the new film is its recognition of the increasing surveillance state.

But perhaps you don't watch a film like "Red Dawn" for its political savvy. The remake is a fairly solid action picture, one that will warm the hearts of the patriotic types who regularly watch the original.

On screen
'Red Dawn'
2.5 out of 4 stars
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Isabel Lucas
Director: Dan Bradley
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of intense war violence and action and for language
Running time: 94 minutes

We meet the Eckert brothers, Jed (Chris Hemsworth) and Matt (Josh Peck), just before the invasion. Jed is a Marine who's just come back home to Spokane, Wash., after a tour of duty, while the younger Matt is a high school football star with a few problems with authority. They don't really get along, but they'll soon be forced to work together. After the North Koreans invade, the brothers and a few of their friends manage to escape into the woods, where they will eventually become freedom fighters engaging in guerrilla warfare.

It's hard to imagine when you first look at this ragtag bunch. "We're going to have to evolve, rewire our reflexes," Jed instructs them. Jed's a natural leader, but movies like these always have a few characters who don't like being led. Robert (Josh Hutcherson) can barely hold a gun when one is given to him; soon he's making his first Korean kills. The teens soon dub themselves the "Wolverines," after the name of the high school football team.

"Red Dawn" was actually shot a few years ago. It sat in limbo while its studio, MGM, tried to restructure after financial problems. That explains how this mostly average effort scored talent like Hemsworth and Hutcherson -- "Thor" and "The Hunger Games," which made these young men well-known, hadn't been released yet.

While the film sat on the shelf, executives realized that a film about Chinese Communists taking over America wouldn't play too well in China. So to preserve a chance at making millions in the country, filmmakers turned the Chinese invaders into North Koreans.

Stunt coordinator Dan Bradley makes his directorial debut here. He's far too fond of the shaky cam, which makes some of the action impossible to follow. And a few minutes of the movie look like they were made as an ad for the Dodge Ram.

Otherwise, though, it's a fun piece of escapism -- thanks mainly to the talents of Hemsworth. It might be hard to believe the Russians will help North Korea attack America. But it's not unlikely that a guy like Hemsworth could inspire scared children to defend their homes and families.

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