Thursday, April 30, 2009

Culture Shock 04.30.09: It's 'Red Dawn' in America again

I've seen my share of ill-advised remakes. "Halloween." "Psycho." Two unnecessary retreads of "King Kong." But they're nothing compared to what lurks on the horizon for next year.

That's when MGM plans to unleash its remake of 1984's "Red Dawn."

The original "Red Dawn" has aged about as well as legwarmers, Aquanet hair and pre-ripped jeans.

The movie's plot can best be described as "The Breakfast Club" meets "Invasion U.S.A." And by "Invasion U.S.A.," I mean either the 1952 Red Scare flick about godless commies descending on America or the 1985 Chuck Norris movie about godless commies descending on America. Take your pick.

"Red Dawn" opens with the Russians and Cubans invading the U.S. Afterward, it's up to a bunch of high school students to mount a resistance. Along the way, they get training from a downed Air Force pilot played by Powers Boothe, which allows them to stage guerrilla raids and fight their way to friendly territory.

The movie is best known for launching the careers of Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen and C. Thomas Howell.

OK, let's be honest about that. C. Thomas Howell hasn't had much of a career. But that's what he gets for agreeing to star in "Soul Man."

Anyway, back when Ted Turner still controlled TBS, rumor had it that he personally programmed the channel by spinning a big wheel with movie titles printed on it. Then he'd air whichever movie the arrow landed on. Unfortunately, the wheel listed the titles of only three movies: "Beastmaster," "Roadhouse" and "Red Dawn."

Now, it could be that I'm the person who started that rumor. That's neither here nor there. The point is, "Red Dawn" aired on TBS a lot when I was a teenager.

"Red Dawn" is written and directed by John Milius, who also gave us Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Conan the Barbarian." As one of Hollywood's few out-of-the-closet conservatives, Milius apparently decided that it was his duty to make an anti-communist movie that was every bit as paranoid and absurd as the anti-business and anti-nuclear movies Hollywood was churning out at about the same time.

Seven years later, the Soviet Union would be gone. But "Red Dawn" would still be on cable TV and still taking itself way too seriously.

But for all of its dreary, depressing earnestness, "Red Dawn" is now a cult favorite, which is probably why someone at MGM thinks it is prime remake material. There's just one tiny, little problem. The Soviet Union is no more. It has ceased to be. It has expired and gone to meet its maker. It is an ex-country.

But never fear. There still is one Big Bad out there to serve as the heavy — China.

According to a review of the remake's script, the new "Red Dawn" has the Chinese invading the U.S., with the Russians coming in later to back them up. So, basically, China is the new Soviet Union and Russia is stuck with the role of Cuban flunky. My, how the Russian Bear has fallen.

The irony here is that the new "Red Dawn" is probably being shot with camera equipment made in China. And that brings up another glaring flaw with this remake. As unlikely as a Soviet invasion of the U.S. was in 1984, a Chinese invasion in 2010 is even more farfetched.

I'm pretty sure we never bought movie equipment from the former Soviet Union, but we buy almost everything from China. Last year alone, the U.S. and China did $409 billion worth of business with each other, with China racking up a $266 billion trade surplus, which it then used to buy a sizable chunk of U.S. debt.

China is far more likely to turn us over to a bill collector than invade. And that might be worse. Think of all the harassing phone calls.

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