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Remake of 'Red Dawn' isn't believable but it's not bad

Red Dawn

Director: Dan Bradley

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Adrianne Palicki, Josh Hutcherson, Josh Peck, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Rated: PG-13 (sequences of intense war violence and action, strong language)

Running time: 93 min.

Posted 4:28pm on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012

Red Dawn is a lot funnier than you remember.

This remake is based on 1984's Reagan-era rah-rah movie about rural footballers who run Russian invaders and their Cuban and Nicaraguan surrogates out of America.

The new Red Dawn dispenses with a lot of that "reds" scariness and settles into a solid if silly action picture about what happens after the North Koreans invade.

No, it won't help the movie to worry about how North Korea could transport that army to the Pacific Northwest.

That's where ex-jock/current Marine Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth) is on leave, visiting his widowed police chief dad (Brett Cullen) and ball-hog quarterback younger sibling, Matty (Josh Peck), when the paratroopers tumble in. "North Korea -- it doesn't make any sense."

But stuntman-turned-director Dan Bradley doesn't sit still long enough for that to sink in. In a jerky and jarring shaky-cam escape sequence, the Eckert brothers and assorted friends and hangers-on -- the tech nerd (Josh Hutcherson), the mayor's son (Connor Cruise), assorted jocks and cheerleaders -- head for the hills. Or the mountains. That's where they plot America's comeback.

The original Red Dawn was co-written and directed by John Milius, a primal-violence primitivist and true believer when it came to the Soviet menace. His movie had a scruffy, lived-in Friday Night Lights-meets- Lord of the Flies aura about it -- rural kids comfortable with guns improvising their way to getting comfortable shooting Russians and Cubans.

The new Dawn has the Marine teach city kids insurgent warfare. Not better, just different.

And it betters the first film with every firefight, every improvised explosion. Bradley auditions for a "Die Hard" movie here. And passes.

It doesn't pay dividends to think too hard about how what happens, happens. If you need a villain, sometimes you've got to build him up to make it seem plausible.

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