So… as you can see, I didn’t end up seeing Killing Them Softly. The combined aversion factor of Brad Pitt and mob violence was just too much for me to overcome. So I went to see Red Dawn instead, which didn’t look any better (in fact, it looked stupider) but at least it had Chris Hemsworth in it. The story is a remake of the 1980s version, but with communist North Korea swapped for communist Russia:
A group of teenagers escape to the woods to form a guerilla resistance after communists invade the city of Spokane, Washington.
Good war movies need three things: believable scenarios, epic action, and sympathetic characters. Unfortunately, with the possible exception of Chris Hemsworth’s character, the new Red Dawn had none of these things. Much like the 80s version, so at least we’re maintaining the status quo.
Chris Hemsworth is too good for this movie. His is the only likeable character and he’s also the only one who seems to have made any effort to give his character emotional depth. He plays Jed Eckert, a US Marine who is home for a conveniently timed visit and ends up getting stuck babysitting a bunch of whiny teenagers in the woods after a North Korean invasion that even the movie admits is nonsensical in its own prologue. The North Koreans parachute in during broad daylight, presumably for dramatic reasons.
All soldiers should also wear these stylish, easily spotted
concentric red and white circles on their butts during the drop.
I find it easy to sympathize with Jed, because I’ve had to look after a bunch of whiny adolescents on a camping trip too and it’s hard not to knock all their heads together sometimes. Unfortunately, Jed has a dopey, selfish younger brother named Matt (Josh Peck) who is the popular high school quarterback despite being a jackass who sucks at football, and the movie seems to think that this kid is the main character.
Come on, North Koreans, this kid needs a bullet right in his dopey face.
They just hide in the woods for a while collecting escapees (who are all, for some reason, teenagers) until their hilarious, heroic, plot required motivational scene. The North Korean villain Captain Cho (Will Yun Lee) brings the mayor (Michael Jenkins) and the sheriff (Brett Cullen) out to the woods to talk their kids into surrendering and the sheriff basically orders Jed and Matt to get themselves killed trying to fight off the invaders all by themselves.
See this guy? Shoot him in the face, kids. I don’t care if it kills you.
Naturally, Cho shoots the sheriff in front of the kids, giving them all the motivation they need to start sneaking around, stockpiling weapons, and killing everyone in a uniform, because the actual American military are all conveniently on vacation at the same time or something. As Jed explains to his charges, guerillas always win, because all they have to do is kill soldiers until they give up and go home because they don’t belong here anyway. But it’s COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from what’s going on in Iraq because America is always the good side.
Hey guys, it’s it awesome how we don’t even have to hide
because they can’t even shoot us until we kill someone?
The kids dub themselves the Wolverines (after the school football team) and spend the next hour or so on random raids, and since there’s no goal other than killin’ some dudes, it gets kind of boring. It’s also extremely irritating that the North Koreans can’t seem to find them to hit them back, even though they’re too stupid to post anyone to keep watch or hide their campfires and they spend all their spare time making a lot of noise by wasting ammunition shooting up trees.
But… if we post a guard then someone will have to miss s’more time!
They try to spice it up with some drama: Matt has a girlfriend (Isabel Lucas) who’s captured, Jed has a high school girl (Adrianne Palicki) trying to mack on him, Daryl (Connor Cruise) has a dad who’s a collaborator, and Robert (Josh Hutcherson) finds it hard to shoot at people, but since no one but Jed is likeable or well rounded, this is also boring.
So… ARE you in high school? It’s hard to tell when everyone looks about thirty.
The screenwriters also have an annoying tendency to kill off people in a predictable order. As in: if you’re non-white, you’re screwed. There’s even a ridiculous scene where dopey, selfish Matt gets another kid killed trying to rescue his ditzy girlfriend and the kid’s sister merely glares at him for a token moment before giving him ‘the nod’ which basically says: “I acknowledge that your useless white girlfriend is more valuable than my Hispanic brother, who was a trained guerilla warrior.”
But… Mattykins… aren’t Mexicans people too?
Thankfully some more Marines (Jeffery Dean Morgan, Kenneth Choi, and Matt Gerald) show up looking for some sort of magical suitcase radio/Enigma machine that will somehow make everything okay again… BUT they need a bunch of teenagers to help them get it, which gives them an actual goal so they can do the raid and end the movie already, because really, these people are all too stupid to live.
CHARACTERS: “Tracking us? There’s no way they could be tracking us!”
ME: Unless you’re, I dunno, CARRYING AROUND THEIR STOLEN MAGIC RADIO!
This Red Dawn wasn’t quite as boring and stupid as I remember the 80s version being (I watched it on TV and the ads were more interesting than the movie). And it did have Chris Hemsworth going for it, but that still doesn’t mean I’m glad I paid ten bucks to see it. So unless you’re also going to the movies purely to oogle the Chris Hemsworth eye candy, stay away from this film.