Review: 'Red Dawn' a senseless exercise in action-movie mayhem

Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson and Chris Hemsworth, from left, star in "Red Dawn."

Photo by Ron Phillips, © 2009 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson and Chris Hemsworth, from left, star in "Red Dawn."

An American city awakens to the surreal sight of foreign paratroopers dropping from the sky -- shockingly, the U.S. has been invaded and their hometown ...

Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense war violence and action, and for language

Length: 93 minutes

Released: November 21, 2012 Nationwide

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Isabel Lucas

Director: Dan Bradley

Writer: Carl Ellsworth, Jeremy Passmore

More info and showtimes »

The most striking thing about "Red Dawn" is not that it's dumb, but that it's unnecessary. And irrelevant. And makes no sense for 2012.

The movie is a remake of the 1984 film of the same name, which imagined a ground attack on the mainland United States by the Soviet Union, with average Americans rising up to beat them back. The premise was fantastic even at the time, but it came out of the era's very real Cold War tensions, of a world with two superpowers competing head to head.

Twenty-eight years later, there is no Soviet Union, so who might attack the United States and gain an immediate foothold on both coasts? Really, who should we be worried about? The answer: North Korea. That's right, in the new "Red Dawn," North Korea finally makes its move and almost knocks us out with one blow. Scary, huh? Feel the chill?

So "Red Dawn" has its own absurdity to contend with. Then it has to contend with everything else. Chris Hemsworth — when is this actor going to catch a break? — plays a Marine, on leave back home in Spokane, who turns out to be a good man to have around in a crisis. One morning, the North Koreans arrive and start blowing up the neighborhood.

The Marine, with the help of a young lady (Adrianne Palicki) who would be his lover if only the Koreans would stop shooting long enough for them to take their clothes off, forms a guerrilla band of warriors. In no time, the guerrillas have machine guns. Then they have explosives, lots of them, though how they acquire them is never quite accounted for.

It should be said that "Red Dawn" is not repellent and sometimes isn't boring. Any sequence in which Americans are trying to blow up, say, a building full of invading politicians and generals, has a certain built-in rooting interest, as well as a story interest: Will the bomb go off?

Unfortunately, the characters are so programmatic, the premise so ridiculous and the situations so far-fetched that "Red Dawn" becomes a vigorous but pointless exercise.

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