An accurate portrayl of everything this movie has to offer
Red Dawn is a "What If" story about what it might have been like if America was invaded in the 1980's by Soviet, Cuban and Nicaraguan armies. I had never seen this movie and passed it up hundreds of times in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart, but when I saw it as a 2-pack with Navy Seals in the very same $5 bin, I had to get it. I even bought a copy for Mark as a late Christmas present (breaking our old tradition of buying eachother only edible gifts). I don't know why, but I never had enough interest in this movie to even read the description, so I had no idea what I was in for. And what was I in for? Maybe the most violent movie I've seen in my adult life (for some reason I saw some horribly violent movies as a kid... I came out alright though). The story focuses around a group of young high school kids (most importantly Charlie Sheen as Matt and C. Thomas Howell as Robert) and Patrick Swayze who plays Charlie Sheen's older brother, Jed.
Not the Brat Pack
What I appreciated about this movie is that it didn't waste any time getting into the action. Jed drops off his little brother at school and before he can even get out of the parking lot, the Soviets have parachuted and opened fire on a history teacher, interrupting his foreshadowing lecture on the wars of Genghis Khan. The shit storm has started. The troops open fire on the unsuspecting kids and even fire rockets down the hallways. Amidst all the gunfire and confusion, Matt and Robert are able to run fast to the parking lot where Jed is waiting to give them a ride in his pickup
They are lucky to escape town, which has been completely taken over by enemy troops, and make their getaway to the mountains where they will spend the next couple of months learning how to shoot guns and be men. And how exactly do you become a man? Well, for starters you could kill a deer and then drink its blood. That's what C. Thomas Howell does anyway. Matt and Jed apparently already did that when they were younger and hunted with their father, so they think that it's normal and that everyone should do it. Matt says, "Once you do that, there's going to be something different about you... always!" Well if that ain't the truth! He sure must have the "spirit of the deer" in him, because from this point on, he is a killing machine with no remorse (you know, like a deer). He'd rather wear the scalp of his dead enemies than ever be caught wearing his Star Wars hat with flipped up visor ever again. He honestly becomes too tough for his own good, but has a new sense of school pride when he starts yelling out "Wolverines" (his school's mascott) when he kills people. If school ever re-opens and they make a new sport that involves blowing shit up with rockets, he could totally be the captain.
"A Wolverine!"Towards the begining of the film, Jed says "It's World War Three down there", but we're not sure if it actually is WWIII until Powers Boothe comes parachuting in to confirm that yes, it is in fact World War Three down there. I'm pretty sure the only point of his character, who's name is Andy, is to give the viewer all the exposition that, up until this point, was missing. He describes how horriffic the war has been and how much of the country has been invaded, blah blah blah. He delivers his lines the same way he later does in Rapid Fire, like a hard boiled detective and much like in that movie, he makes it work. It's like Mark said to me the other day. "It's like he's just too grizzled and badass for reality." But maybe that's just the way he talks.
So far I've mentioned two people that are pretty badass in this movie, C. Thomas Howell and Powers Boothe. Swayze doesn't quite reach the standards set by his fellow castmates even though at one point he does tell everyone to "Never cry again!", but then breaks his own rule by sneaking off into the woods to weep like a little girl. That's not to say that little girls can't be badasses though. Take Jennifer Grey for example. She's a small girl, but manages to be the toughest person in this movie by far. She doesn't say much, but she manages to blow up a tank and a building filled with soldiers. Who needs rockets when you can hand deliver bombs? She even takes a bullet from a helicopter like a champ.
The movie is a little dated based on the fact that the entire story hinges on the audience believing that the Soviets would invade the US. I was born the year this movie came out, so I barely lived in a world where there was a Soviet Union (they dissolved in 1991). All I know is that when I was second grade, our classes got new maps and people started calling it Russia. But even if it was a completely fictional idea that involved a made-up country, the idea of WWIII taking place in the United States is still terrifying. Apparently they are remaking this movie for a 2010 release and instead of the Cold War scare, they are using the terror of a Post 9/11 world. Shouldn't they change the title? I thought the "Red" part of Red Dawn was in reference to the color of the Soviet flag?
Best Quote: Jed and Matt's dad, Mr. Eckert, played by Harry Dean Stanton, yelling to his sons from behind a fence at the local Drive-In turned Prison Camp "Avenge Me!... AVENGE ME!!!
Body Count: Honestly there is no way to keep track of all of them. I tried, I really really tried, but even with pausing the movie and counting the piles of bodies I couldn't keep track. Here's what a 1984 article from the New York Times has to say:
"The National Coalition on Television Violence has condemned the summer hit ''Red Dawn'' as the most violent movie ever made. The fantasy about third-world troops invading a small Colorado town averages 134 acts of violence an hour..."
Point Blank Kills: Again, too many to count. Everyone does it though like it ain't no thang to shoot a guy in the face.
-by Ben Stumpf