Intelligence written in violence
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 1, 2012 16:10
In 1995 the world at large was introduced to the British comic series 2000 A.D. in the form of the Sylvester Stallone vehicle known as “Judge Dredd.” It was pretty terrible.
While the comic was a smart commentary on crime rampancy and fascism, the movie was a dumb, dull sci-fi action romp with Stallone chewing every piece of scenery that entered his field of view.
Now, seven years later, we have “Dredd.” And it’s pretty good.
Penned by “Sunshine and 28 Days Later” screenwriter Alex Garland, I had high expectations in terms of plot going in. Thankfully, Garland has delivered a truly smart and surprisingly character-driven affair, while director Pete Travis (“Vantage Point”) keeps things moving at a breakneck pace.
“Dredd” is, at its heart, a straightforward movie about two cops doing their jobs. Albeit, these are cops with high-tech weaponry and psychic abilities that act as judge, jury and executioner in a mega-city of 800
million people with a criminal element that has become so commonplace as to require such measures.
Despite all of the crazy background exposition, the plot remains relatively simple. This is summed up by Karl Urban (“Star Trek,” “The Bourne Supremacy”) in his pitch-perfect performance as the no-nonsense Judge Dredd as, when questioned about what happened during the events of the film, he simply responds “Drug bust.”
His response does no justice to the 200 floors of blood, chaos and mayhem he was forced to battle through, locked inside of a massive apartment complex with only his rookie partner to help him fend off the hundreds of drugged up gang members standing between him and the film’s villain.
What’s surprising about all of the aforementioned chaos is how artistically it’s presented to the viewer.
“Dredd” spends more time using its violence and mayhem to underscore the inner nature of its characters than just for the sake of action. These people live in this insane dystopia and the way that each of them -- from Dredd, to his partner, to the villain Ma Ma -- deals with that fact is what’s really at the core of the film.
That’s not to say that the shootouts aren’t exciting as standalone action pieces; they really are. In fact, I’d say that “Dredd” features some of the most well-choreographed combat I’ve seen in an American film in a long while. Things do get hectic, as you’d expect from a movie like this, but thanks to some smart editing (a dying art in this world full of wannabe Michael Bays, Zack Snyders as well as... Michael Bay and Zack Snyder) it’s easy to keep up with what’s on screen at any given moment.
Thanks to Sly Stallone’s atrocious 1995 rendition of the character, I’m sure that many will be wary about giving the titular judge another shot on the silver screen. Let me allay any of those fears and just say that everyone should absolutely go and see “Dredd,” preferably while it’s still in theatres. The plot, pacing, acting and action are all top-notch, and will likely hold up quite well on home TVs, but for the real spectacle you owe it to yourself to see this on the big screen.
What’s been achieved with “Dredd” is not only an exciting and well-done sci-fi action movie in an era where sound and noise constitute the majority of such endeavors, but it’s a surprisingly affecting character piece as well.
Seriously, just go see this movie.