Would the Soviet Union, allied with Cuba, have initiated a third world war in the rural Midwest of the United States? I doubt it, but, boy, do we all know about Russian expansionism. In the 1984 Red Dawn, the Midwest is where the communists invade, and teenaged sons and daughters are the ones who aggressively engage them. Though far from a work of art, the film harbors themes: communist hostility and the global inevitability of invasion.

As an action movie, Red Dawn is reliable. Director-writer John Milius is an avid gun collector and it shows. Firearms here are rather distinctive, an attention grabber. War violence is framed in shots of surrounding mountainous beauty. Up to a point, though, the film is silly. Milius is a conservative who, despite the strengths in Dillinger, made poor choices as a moviemaker. But I say unhesitatingly that American cinema is more fun and interesting with him than without him.