John Milius (director and writer) lets himself down a bit with this film. Although it's not an absolute stinker, it does suffer from the fact that Milius always wanted to be a general in the US army and it's almost like he made this film for that reason alone. The dialogue isn't as good as he's produced in previous films like The Wind And The Lion or Conan the Barbarian, the action sequences seem a bit restrained too, but there's no denying his ability to shoot a gorgeous landscape.
Harry Dean Stanton chews up the scenery in a small supporting role and probably gives the stand-out performance of the film, despite his limited screen time. The cluster of Brat Packers do their jobs well enough without ever lighting up the screen, held back by a lacklustre script that doesn't give anyone the opportunity to really shine.
You just can't take this kind of film seriously even though at the time the plot concerning a communist (Cuban/Russian/Central American) invasion of the US may well have been at the back of the collective American mind.
20 years on it might look like pro American chest beating, but really it's a view from "the other side of the coin", a kind of Vietnam war in reverse, and makes you think about the ambiguities of war and friendship, in fact post September 11th it's almost poignant - where's the line between terrorist and freedom fighter? It's possible for someone to be both, it just alters according to which side you're on. Not that that makes Red Dawn a decent film - even at the time of its release it was a guily pleasure, and pleasures don't come much more guilty than this.
There's not much to say about the DVD really - it's got a functional 1.85:1 non anamorphic picture (that looks more like it's cropped at the sides from 2.35:1 to me) that could have done with a clean-up as it's a bit dark and grainy, a functional 2.0 surround audio track in multiple languages that doesn't really pack the punch the many battle sequences could do with, and it's got a trailer. It's cheap though, which with a nostalgic flick like this is probably best otherwise it would be left on the shelf in favour of something a little more modern and (dare I say it?) sophisticated.
Not an essential purchase, but I'm happy I bought it. I wouldn't ever expect to see a feature packed SE of this film, although a commentary by Milius would have been a nice extra.