Don’t remember whether I ever had a VHS. Anyhow, I either did and watched the tape, or else I caught it on cable TV some 30 years ago. It’s an enjoyable movie, as far as it goes. More on that later. It’s Red Dawn, from 1984, released by United Artists and released through MGM. It stars Patrick Swayze and some more. It just popped up on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.
It’s an interesting story, though too stretched to be believable. It would have made a good science fiction plot, perhaps Revolt in 2100. Anyhow it’s this, and what this is needs to be explained in the titles. History has been altered, and the Soviet Union has suffered a serious economic setback. Europe has come apart at the seams, as well, dissolving NATO and kicking defensive forces out. Cuba and Nicaragua have gone rogue, as well, threatening the United States southern flank.
All of this is not apparent in the opening scenes, and things seem peaceful as brothers Jed (Patrick Swayze) and Matt Eckert (Charlie Sheen) arrive for school in Calumet, Colorado. Jed is driving, and he drops Matt and a friend off and goes to his job. The school team is the Wolverines, and a scoreboard at the football field shows a recent defeat to the Grizzlies. It’s going to be a day unlike any other.
A high school teacher is just wrapping up a discussion of Attila the Hun’s war philosophy. His troops would sweep across a broad region, entrapping the civilian population and then methodically eliminating every man, woman, and child. Out the window he see paratroopers landing on the school grounds. It’s a lightening strike force comprising Soviet and Central American troops.
When the teacher goes outside to ask what the shit is going on, the troops machine gun him and then turn their fire on the school, leaving only the dead and those who manage to escape.
The brothers converge on a pickup truck and swing by a sporting goods store owned by a parent. No money changes hands as the owner equips the youngsters with the means to wage World War III. It makes a great poster for the NRA and doomsday preppers.
In the mountains the kids settle organizational and tactical differences and form up a guerrilla group they later name the Wolverines.
At another swing through the civilized world, they get more encouragement from adults, and also two teenage girls who have been victimized by the invaders. Hiding in the mountains they taste first blood, when some Soviet troops-turned tourists pay a visit to the wilderness. One who professes to read English mistranslates the sign as celebrating a great massacre of an Indian tribe. He explains in Russian, necessitating English subtitles.
Then one of the troops spots an arrow of modern construction, apparently dropped by one of the Wolverines. Their curiosity piqued, they investigate and spot one of the girls. Always on the lookout for pussy, they barge into the remainder of the Wolverines and are, themselves, massacred.
Incidents such as this incite reprisal killings by the invaders. The Wolverines watch from hiding as their parents and others are executed by the troops.
Going tit for tat, the Wolverines respond by taking out a Soviet tank. One of the girls, Toni (Jennifer Grey), baits the sex-starved troops. They seize her package and dump it into the tank before chasing after her. It’s a booby trap. The package blows up inside the tank, and the Wolverines wipe out the surviving crew.
Things get more deadly. An F-15 pilot, Lt. Col. Andrew Tanner (Powers Boothe) has been shot down in a dogfight and has joined the Wolverines. He instructs them on battlefield tactics. When the Wolverines go to inspect the front line of the fighting between American regular forces and the Soviets, they get caught in the middle of a tank battle. While destroying two Soviet tanks, Tanner and Aardvark (Doug Toby) are killed.
The invaders get devious and organize a sophisticated hunt to destroy the Wolverines. Daryl Bates (Darren Dalton), the mayor’s son, has made an unauthorized trip into town, where he has been caught and forced to swallow a tracking transponder. A squad of troops, following the transponder signal, closes in on the Wolverines but are ambushed and wiped out, except for one. The subterfuge is revealed, and Jed kills the surviving Soviet troop, leaving Robert (C. Thomas Howell) to kill Daryl
When it looks like a trap it probably is a trap. A Soviet convoy departs a deserted stretch of road, leaving packages of food beside the road. The Wolverines are watching, and when they take the food with them they are tracked and attacked by Soviet helicopters, killing more of the Wolverines.
The Wolverines decide to make one last stand before departing for American-held territory. The brothers raise a huge ruckus in town, allowing Danny (Brad Savage) and Erica (Lea Thompson) to escape. Jed gets the drop on the Nicaraguan captain (Judd Omen), but wastes the opportunity by challenging him before shooting him. Both are mortally wounded in the exchange. Jed and Matt die together in the town park.
American wins the war.
Acting is just so. Nothing spectacular here. The plot, as mentioned, is stretched way too thin. Where to start?
Soviet and Central American troops are able to pull off a surprise airborne assault deep inside this country? Really? The American pilot rescued by the Wolverines spends a lot of words explaining how this can be, but we will remain unconvinced.
Invading troops, instead of immediately getting down to military business upon alighting from their parachute drop, pause to massacre a teacher and students at a high school. OK. That serves the purpose of showing these are bad guys, but it also shows they are not very good soldiers.
Some teenagers head off into the mountains to carry on the fight. But no adults. Really?
The teenagers are able to wipe out an entire platoon of soldiers, backed up by armored vehicles, to save the civilians about to be executed. Really?
Cold War rhetoric saturates the plot. Recall, this was five years before the Soviet Union collapsed as communism gave a last gasp in Europe. A lot of the dialog seems quaint today.
There’s more throughout this story.