Friday, September 21, 2012

Dredd


  Realizing Dredd came out today, this effectively ended my posted hiatus. Being a massive fan of the British comic character, I couldn't resist catching the first possible showing of this today. It was a great decision. Many people are still recovering from 1995's Stallone action vehicle Judge Dredd.  However, it was panned by critics, despised by fans, and even failed to impress standard movie goers.  It made it's protagonist, the classic Judge Dredd, into a cartoonishly over the top (and embarassingly clad) super-cop. With massive eagle shoulder pads, and a large metal crotch protector, the coolest part (and arguable only cool part) of his ensemble was his helmet. And he only had that on for about five minutes of the movie. Which pissed off alot of fans. Let me begin the rest of the review by saying... this time, it's true...
Urban never takes off the helmet.

  This movie is sadly compared endlessly to others like Die hard or The Raid because of it's familiar plot and theme, about a skyscraper full of bad guys and only one or two good guys to fight em all.  However Dredd is it's own beast, managing to be creative and original enough to not feel like either of those movies.
From his cool looking uniform to his awesome gun, Judge Dredd shines as a character here. His methods are cold, violent, and brutal. A far cry from the cartoonishly hokey Stallone iteration.  Some may argue the movie is too violent, but I beg to differ. I think it's perfect. Spot on.  The gore and violence is over the top, but that's precisely where I want it. With so many properties being toned down, it's time we got a seriously brutal action flick.  Aside from The Raid of course... and not to mention this is how Dredd always was in the comics.  Heads explode, necks are broken, blood sprays across the screen, people are gunned down left and right... it's a bloodbath. But never dipping into extreme overkill.

  Sometimes a director finds a gimmick and exploits the hell out of it at every possible opportunity. In this case that would've been the high from a new street drug called 'Slo-mo'.  Which does quite what you might expect, it turns things into a big, vibrantly colored, slow motion, visual eye-feast from.  Colors pop and things are hyper-detailed.   It only makes sense for them to have a shootout or two while someone is tripping on Slo-Mo, that's prime for some awesome visuals. And ideed it is! It looks amazing as faces and body parts ripple and explode with splashes of bright red blood all in slow motion. It highlights, quite literally, the gruesomeness of being on the other end of Dredd's gun. Brutal.  However, the director uses this gimmick sparingly and effectively. The drug is a story point and not something gratuitously added for the sake of it's special effects. Well done guys.

  Speaking of the cast and characters, Dredd is stone cold badass. He uses just about every kind of possible ammo mode for the lawgiver. Hi-ex, rapid fire, incendiary, hotshot, and silencer mode. Also, he's a bamf even in hand to hand combat, which is just as brutal as the shootouts. Often with flinch worthy results.  You can see his outlook and tone through his violence and attitude, this is absolutely the Dredd from the comics.  And Karl Urban plays him more perfectly than I could've ever imagined. The rookie he's training over the course of a day, Rookie Anderson, is played with charm and a sympathetic twist by Olivia Thrilby.  Did I mention she's a telepath? Speaking of which, Anderson's telepathy is put to great use here. Very clever and fun to watch how she uses it. She's definitely a highlight of the movie. And a sequel wouldn't be as fun without her. Or at least, my hopes would be dashed a bit. She's a sidekick for Dredd that functions within the story, and she's a human anchor to his cold and brutal methods. She's not comic relief like the horrendous Rob Schneider was. *shudder*

  I think the antagonist, Ma Ma, (Lena Headey) has all the ingredients to be a great villain, even in the comics, and Lena Headey does a great job here... but I felt like her character should've had more to her. She seems like nothing we haven't seen before and she doesn't get an opportunity to get her hands dirty personally. Her henchmen also lack the gravitas and onscreen presence that you might've seen in The Raid from a villain like Mad Dog. In short, she's effective and gives off a sense of power and intelligence, but she hardly gets the screentime to do something TRULY memorable.  There could've been more dark humor, akin to the comics, but I think they wanted to stay in safe waters, far away the massive one liner that was Danny Cannon's Judge Dredd. Which feels much like a bad joke next to this one. However bad you thought it was before this movie, it'll seem a hundred times worse afterwards.

  In some small ways, this movie might leave hardcore fans wanting a little. I can imagine serious fans would say... "Mega City One still doesn't look like it's supposed to", or "the Lawmaster looks retarded", or stuff like that. But to be honest, when they've nailed the character and tone, the rest is irrelevant nitpicks. Also, it might be disheartening that alot of the wilder aspects of Judge Dredd from the comics, are absent here.  The mutants, the cursed earth, all that stuff is merely mentioned and not explored. But this movie serves as a decent starting point, a good set up for stuff to come.  And they don't do anything actually wrong with the property, instead they gave us a bare bones, hard hitting, cop story. Which is okay. It's better to start small, and hit big, and get a solid handle on the character and world before delving into stuff that audiences may not respond well to.  It's good that they have been exposed (or re-exposed) to a proper Judge Dredd flick before the franchise (let's hope, yeah?) takes a wilder, stronger sci-fi turn.

  All in all... the verdict on this gritty and violent reboot?
For fans it should be mandatory viewing.  Everyone else? I urge you to give it a chance. It's a slick, bloody, and polished ride. Not to be missed.

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