Monday, April 15, 2013
A visceral under-rated remake that deserves a larger audience
1995's Judge Dredd was savaged by critics when it was released. A critical failure, many die hard Dredd comic fans (on which it was based) hated its tongue and cheek humor and general silliness. I did not hate it and rather found its campiness quite endearing. Besides, you don't often get to see Sylvester Stallone don an over the top role and still have genuine fun.
By comparison, Dredd of 2012 is, to my understanding a more faithful adaptation of the comic book and a solid sci-fi actioner in its own right. Set in a dystopian future of huge urban scrawls, abject poverty, crime and colossal sepia-toned skyscraper towns, Dredd has a more' real' feel to it that adds to its advantage.
The film starts in Mega City, a endlessly sprawling metropolis of concrete, neon and people. Massive skyscrapers that can house thousands of poor residents jut out of the ground like pillars from a distance. Most of the city shots are real shots of Johannesburg, South Africa that were digitally altered to create the monstrous urban structures but its done superbly.
As expected, Mega-City is a crime ridden dung heap ruled over by the menacing Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), a vicious psychopath and drug queen who also controls the black market on a new best selling, time-shifting mind drug, Slo-Mo. So, its upto the lawful Judges, by the book administrators of the law (played very well by Karl Urban and Olivia Thirlby) to take her down and keep civil order as best they can.
As an emotionless judge, jury and executioner all in one, Karl Urban in the lead role here is truly magnetic. You never get to see his face yet, he brings plenty of depth to the character. Olivia Thirlby as his young rookie with a conscience adds a certain girlish innocence to the script when the movie starts but is a mature pass-out by the time all the bloodbath subsides and the movie ends.
Pete Travis, who gave us Vantage Point and End Game directs with kinetic flair and the result is a viscerally raw, gritty and intense movie experience. The action scenes alone warrant a viewing and at just 95 minutes, its timed just right. A poor marketing strategy to position this as a 3D movie was the root cause for its market failure. Let it not deter you from watching what is actually a stunningly well made action entertainer. JohnnyTwoToes