Monday, May 6, 2013

5Q Movie Review: Dredd (2012)

Yes, the 5Q Movie Review returns! I do see a movie that's less than 20 years old now and then, and I enjoy writing about it in this format. Recently I gambled a buck or so at a Redbox kiosk and went home with "Dredd."

Q: Is this a reboot of the Sly Stallone version?
A: Kind of, but it's been long enough that I say, let's not even mention that version, OK? Last year Cinemax was running it frequently, so I thought I'd revisit it despite the palpable disappointment my father and I felt seeing it in that original theatrical run.

I think I lasted about 10 minutes. I had forgotten just how much Rob Schneider there was in "Dredd." I mean, it's one thing to have a character be the audience's "entree into the setting," but I was seeing tons of Schneider and no Judge Dredd, so I bailed.

Uh, but, yeah, as I was saying, let's not even mention that one.

Q: Does it do justice (heh heh) to the comic books?
A: Unlike that previous version--oops, there I go mentioning it again--it does. I haven't read any Judge Dredd comics in years, but from what I remember, yeah, this is pretty good. Karl Urban does a great job as the titular lawman, a cop who also serves as judge, jury, and executioner in the dystopic Mega City One. Unlike in certain other adaptations, Urban doesn't take off his helmet so we can admire his movie star face. He stays true to his print identity.

Psychic female judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) is his partner in this story, and one clever move the filmmakers do is to make her a rookie so that SHE is her accessible point into the world...not Rob Schneider. And Judge Anderson kicks ass. Thirlby is physically credible in this dynamic action role but also pulls off a blend of toughness and relative innocence that creates a complex character who serves as a welcome contrast to the jaded, laconic Dredd.

Q: Didn't this bomb at the box office? Is it really worth seeing?
A: I've read that it has found new life on video. Perhaps people just didn't know much about the Judge Dredd character. After all, he's a British phenomenon, and casual comic book fans over here have no idea what he's about. I hope this is doing well on DVD because while I don't think it'll ever make a blockbuster summer popcorn event, it could easily sustain a franchise. This movie pretty much shows Dredd and Anderson dealing with a single city block, but there are many elements from the comics on which to draw.

Q: Is it as dark as other recent comic book movies?
A: It has literal darkness, and Mega City One is a pretty depressing sight. The story shows criminality, gang activity, and drug use run amok, and the fascist approach to law enforcement may be quite grim indeed even to viewers who acknowledge that it looks...well, necessary. Yet the movie has a sense of humor, not in the sense of loading up the dialogue with forced wisecracks, but in the sense of being a fun ride.

The villain, gang leader/drug dealer, Ma-Ma, is played with a smile (literally, and it's a wicked one) by Lena Headey. She has enough charisma to pull it off, and she is pretty damn evil, but...come on, she's named Ma-Ma.

Q: Was it worth your buck?
A: I must confess it's actually more like $1.20, but I had a coupon code that made it closer to 70 cents. Hell, yeah, it was worth that. I may not have felt I got bang for my buck had I paid to see "Dredd" at a cineplex on a Saturday night, but as a video rental, it was a fantastic viewing experience. It's really a cool B-movie, and I don't mean that in a bad way. It's filled with action, and while there are character moments, no time is wasted on explaining the back story of Dredd. There are hints of deeper elements to his character, but there isn't a flashback scene to explain his origin and "fill us in." And we don't need it. We learn quickly who he is and what we need to know. Anderson's back story is more explicit, but it is revealed in layers that tie into the story and her situation.

"Dredd" is a lot of fun, and I hope there is a sequel or two. As long as they can keep Urban, and maybe keep the budget down, maybe they can crank these out and make enough money to keep everyone happy while drawing on the long tradition of the British comics that spawned this character. Future installments could explore the sociopolitical elements of the Dredd universe, but I was fine with this action-centered, no frills flick.

No comments: