CHICAGO – If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between a director and a producer, let “47 Ronin” explain how the hierarchy of creativity hinders the evolution of even the most straightforward-sounding pitches. “47 Ronin” is the type of samurai movie set in Japan that features native actors speaking only English, while Keanu Reeves stars as an outsider clearly plunked into the picture for stateside star power.
Film Review: Geopolitics Aside, ‘Red Dawn’ is Decent Action Movie
CHICAGO – Given the state of the post-9/11 world, and the delicate negotiations between nations, remaking “Red Dawn” posed a considerable risk. But the film takes a ‘“damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,” approach, and pulls off an adrenaline rush featuring Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson and Josh Peck.
It’s World War III all over again, this time featuring the North Koreans instead of the Russians. Like the original film, it features common teenagers and young adults turned into a guerrilla military force. Also like its predecessor, “Red Dawn” is stocked with the appropriately aged actors of the moment, and creates their heroes by defining them as underground vigilantes. It becomes about stiffening the spine, fighting the enemy and kicking ass – and the movie delivers that in spades – mostly with firefights and explosions. The actions sequences are well staged, and like the 1984 film produces the same weird chill of seeing paramilitary activity on Norman Rockwell’s Main Street.
In a mid size town in Washington State, the bucolic life centers on high school sports and American values. Lurking in the background is an unstable situation overseas, that devolves into a new “axis of evil,” anchored by North Korea. The United States government is compromised, and North Korean paratroopers descend even into the small town, attacking America on its own soil. This hits home to one particular family, as father Tom (Brett Cullen) is the town sheriff, and he encourages his sons Jed (Chris Hemsworth) and Matt (Josh Peck) to escape to a family cabin.
Several of Matt’s high school buddies and Jed’s friends have escaped with them, including Robert (Josh Hutcherson), Toni (Adrianne Palicki) and Erica (Isabel Lucas). Jed was in-country in Iraq, and he understands the situation at hand. After witnessing a tragedy, he buries the crew deep in the woods and begins training them in guerrilla warfare. They start covert missions against the North Koreans and call themselves Wolverines, after their high school mascot. When a lost Marine colonel named Tanner (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) joins up with the force, victory might be in their grasp.
Photo credit: Film District