Red Dawn or Deadly Dancing

Ash Isaac

Picture the scene. The borders are out of control. The local town is being overrun by foreign invaders. The indigenous population is being forced to go underground and scrap for survival. No, not the latest UKIP electoral pamphlet, but the plot of 1984 cult classic, Red Dawn. Set during the height of the Cold War, this paranoia-infused, blood-saturated saga provides a unique take on the politics and fears of the time.

The thing that first strikes you about Red Dawn is that it does not mess about. If this film were a date then it would be lighting a post-coital fag around the time you’re settling into your seat. Within the first five minutes, the Soviets have paratroopers on the ground in a small town in Colorado and are storming the high school, gunning people down indiscriminately. A group of fresh faced students led by Patrick Swayze, and including a pre-meltdown Charlie Sheen, manage to escape the bloodbath and take refuge in the surrounding wilderness in a bid to survive whilst the rest of the town’s population is subjugated by the invading army.

After witnessing the horror of their families either being killed or imprisoned, the intrepid youths rebrand themselves as ‘The Wolverines’, a guerrilla band of freedom fighters and launch an insurgency against the occupying forces. Despite having no military training or expertise, being heavily outnumbered and outgunned and with no discernible supply or command network, this ragtag bunch of misfits are somehow able to launch assault after devastating assault inflicting heavy casualties on the Soviets and their allies who seem utterly powerless to stop what is essentially a Disney Club version of the A-Team. Except with this version, people die and the kids have no qualms about racking up a body count.

The Wolverines expand their ranks by taking on Lea Thompson and Jennifer ‘Baby’ Grey who prove to be just as formidable and deadly as any of their male counterparts. The gleeful internecine ambushing of Soviet troops continues though the group begins to sustain losses causing them to become as ruthless and desperate as the very enemy they are trying to vanquish. One by one they begin to be picked off until only four remain. Swayze and Sheen then make the ultimate sacrifice in the hope that the last two can escape to the liberated territories of the US and continue the fight from there.

It could almost have been scripted by a Reagan speechwriter; a Republican fantasy where the villains are dastardly socialists hell-bent on destroying the American way of life and the heroes are men with guns or more accurately, boys and girls with guns. Thomas Jefferson said that, “the tree of liberty must be frequently watered with the blood of patriots and tyrants”, and I’m sure he would have been a Red Dawn fan. It’s got all the stuff he enjoyed – mayhem, carnage, suspense, Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey sharing a screen and not dancing, Charlie Sheen holding a gun and not accidentally shooting anybody who wasn’t a filthy Communist. What more could a red-blooded, red meat eating, red, white and blue diehard want?

Fast forward almost thirty years and Red Dawn has been remade, but the Russians have been replaced by an even greater threat… North Koreans. Yes, a country with a GDP the size of the average Premier League club’s wage bill has somehow managed to invade the most powerful nation in the world. Rumour has it that the original villains were meant to be the Chinese Army, but the producers thought this would limit the film’s appeal to the Asian market. Presumably in another thirty years when they remake Red Dawn for the second time the villains will be a colony of genetically modified 10 feet high communist fire-ants and the makers won’t have to worry about offending anybody or being cut off from any lucrative demographics.

Whereas the original Red Dawn was unapologetically bloody and violent, the modern day version pulls its punches, shirks away from danger and endorses discretion as the better part of valour. What we really want to see is the class of ’84 take on the class of 2013. Swayze vs Hemsworth, Sheen vs Cruise and Grey vs Palicki. Sure, it would be a massacre, but at least the Americans would win. Wolverines!

About Ash Isaac

I am a contributor of questionable taste, origin and talent. My one claim to fame is that I was born in the same hospital as Cliff Richard. I am still in possession of my soul unlike Sir Cliff who sold his to Samael the Desolate in return for eternal youth and the friendship of Sue Barker.