This latest 80s staple from the remake mill again asks the question of whether these movies are really necessary and/or worth the wait. The original film by John Milius is beloved but frankly has a reputation far beyond what it deserves, so maybe director Dan Bradley (stunt co-ordinator on ”The Bourne Legacy”) thought the bar was set pretty low to begin with.
Filmed in 2010 and left on the shelf of the then-ailing MGM, it was no doubt fast-tracked to cinemas following the advent of Chris Hemworth’s stardom thanks to ”Thor” and ”The Avengers”. The first red flag is Hemsworth’s relative lack of confidence in front of the camera. He plays a generic all American hero and does little but scowl and occasionally flash his million dollar smile, but directors Kenneth Brannagh and Joss Whedon have drawn far more nuance out of him since.
He’s Jed, older brother to Matt (Josh Peck) and erstwhile leader of a band of rebels that holes up in the woods outside Spokane, Washington after North Korea invades the US (another story connected with the production claims the original cut portrayed the invaders as Chinese, an idea subsequently dropped so it didn’t risk the Chinese box office potential).
After a daring escape from town in a couple of pickup trucks, the kids watch their parents and elders rounded up and put in prison camps. Realising nobody is coming to help them, the gang finds every corny line they can to spout about patriotism, home and family before they decide to fight back.
As a marine, it’s up to Jed to teach them everything from hand to hand combat to guerilla warfare tactics. All it takes is a quick training montage and this group of slacker kids is an elite underground resistance that manages to drive the local North Korean commander (Will Yun Lee) crazy.
The standout motif in the entire film is the lack of colour. The hues of Spokane and the surrounding wintry forest, the clothes and the personalities involved are all flat and forgettable, with not a single noteworthy line, scene or character among them except maybe the paratrooper landing sequence – which you’ve seen in the trailer.
The fact that the movie believes in its own importance much more than you will also takes you completely by surprise. After a successful raid on an enemy checkpoint, there’s a rising crescendo and a sweeping tracking shot across teenagers thrusting machine guns into the air while shouting ‘wolverines’ triumphantly. That’s where the movie loses you, because you’re evidently supposed to feel roused and thrilled instead of wondering when it’s going to come to life.
Hemsworth must be embarrassed that someone finally had the impetus to release it. If he isn’t, he should be.
Extras : Zip