You gotta give credit to actors Chris Hemsworth and the two Joshes -- Hutcherson and Peck -- for trying to infuse their one-dimensional American fighters with as much personality as they can muster.
But they can't do much with Carl Ellsworth's and Jeremy Passmore's perfunctory screenplay when it overdoses on patriotic bromides and imperatives such as (in chronological order) "Hang on!" "Hang on!" "Hold on!" "Go, go, go, go!" "Hang on!" "Let's go!" "Let's go!" "Go, go, go!" "This is war!" "Let's go!" "Go!" "Come on!" "Come on!" and so on.
"Red Dawn"★ ★
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Josh Peck, Isabel Lucas
Directed by: Dan Bradley
Other: A Film District release. Rated PG-13 for language and violence. 114 minutes
Actually, the first 40 minutes of "Red Dawn" jump with excitement and thrills as a sleepy American community awakes one morning to the thunder of overhead engines and the sight of North Korean paratroopers falling from the sky, landing, shooting people in the streets and rounding up neighbors.
The night before seemed like any ordinary Friday night at the local Spokane, Wash., high school where visiting U.S. Marine Jed Eckert (Hemsworth) dropped by to see his kid brother Matt (Peck) lose the football game.
Instantly, we get their back story: Jed left after their mom died, leaving Matt really, really mad that his bro abandoned him and his police sergeant dad (Brett Cullen) when they needed him most.
Then comes the invasion, a full-out assault right after the North Koreans wipe out all our electromagnetic power, presumably crippling our abilities to communicate and detect a whale load of incoming planes.
Jed and Matt have only minutes to escape before the troops land. They jump in their Dodge pickup truck and head to the family's secreted cabin in the woods, along with a few others they pick up along the way, among them Robert ("Hunger Games" star Hutcherson), the Mayor's son Daryl (Connor Cruise) and Toni (Adrianne Palicki), who carries an acetylene torch for the hunky Jed.
Now, with Spokane under martial law presided over by a hissably villainous Korean prefect named Captain Cho (Will Yun Lee), the teens, led by Jed the Iraq War vet, cowboy up to become the Resistance, hitting the bad guys when they least expect it, and fighting for their homeland under their high school nickname, the Wolverines.
"We inherited our freedom!" Jed shouts. "Now it's time we have to fight for it!"
After an impressive and suspenseful start, Dan Bradley's remake of John Milius' 1984 Cold War thriller quickly devolves into a grade-schooler's view of war: a black-and-white, apolitical, us-vs.-them conflict with all the violence suppressed to PG-13 levels (graphic shootings of key characters aren't shown on screen).
We never quite find out how the North Koreans and the Russians (they take over the other coast) pulled off this military coup, although three un-retired ex-Marines (led by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who join up with the Wolverines provide a few sketchy and implausible details.
When Bradley shot "Red Dawn" in 2009 (before Hemsworth did "The Avengers" and "Thor"), the invaders were Chinese. Reportedly, after the film's original studio MGM filed for bankruptcy, the producers changed logos, dialogue, uniforms and flags to make North Korea the villains out of fear of blunting the lucrative Chinese market.
Note to producers: "Rise of the Guardians" earned a pathetic $413 per-screen average when it opened in China this week, so you might just have unrealistic market expectations.
In this increasingly silly "Red Dawn," the Chinese apparently don't even want a slice of the American pie. They let the Russians and North Koreans have it all to themselves.