Yes. Stallone and Rob Schneider were in the last movie bearing the “Judge Dredd” name. It was bad. Like Ghost Dad bad. Like if Pluto Nash had sex with anything else in Eddie Murphy’s recent body of work and the deformed baby that came from that unholy union was a muscular Italian man. There. I said it. Let’s never speak of this again. It has no bearing on the conversation we are about to have about the movie I just watched. This is not that. At all.
I feel like I’m picking a fight. Sorry. I’ve just ingested a shit-ton of visual testosterone. I need to put The Notebook on in the background while I write this just to try and keep it even.
So, the Dredd I saw was not Dredd 3D, because I flat-out refuse to not try and kill this idiotic 3D trend. Sure, there are parts of this movie, like every action movie shot in the last few years, where I was all “That would be cool in 3D.” But, for the most part, a great movie doesn’t need such gimmicks. Dredd didn’t need 3D. The Dredd I saw was plenty. No need for the extra “D”. Double D’s are enough for me in other words. (Hey-o! *high fives cat*)
Karl Urban’s mouth plays Judge Dredd, the judge, jury, and executioner in a dystopian Mega-City that is pretty much the worst place ever to live. Helping him is Juno’s best friend Olivia Thirlby, as a mutant psychic rookie Judge on her first day on the street. Cersei Lannister plays Mama, the bad person who does bad things, especially to penises and rival clans. Avon Barksdale plays one of her capos. It’s a weird, eclectic mix of mostly famous people that totally works. The fact we never sees Dredd’s face is, to me, almost a subtle criticism of the necessity of “acting” in modern action movies. Granted, he does some cool grimacing and some state-of-the-art sneering. In fact, he takes mouth-acting to a whole new level.
Doesn’t matter. There is a self-awareness in this movie that makes it several times better than other films in the action genre. It isn’t overly serious but doesn’t draw attention to the fact that it’s not overly serious. There is no campiness here. It’s a stylistic simplicity that moves the rather rote plot* from the banal to the sublime. It has a texture and a layering that you don’t normally see in movies with this much grunting. I was thoroughly impressed.
Oh… and by the way…it’s SUPER violent. Like uncomfortably violent in a few scenes. Again, I have to think this was a conscious design choice and not a throw-off decision. The comics this property is actually based on** ( 2000 AD) were also violent and disturbing, to some extent. The embracing of this Saw-like level of grodiness could be seen as another self-referential statement about a genre (comic book movies) that has been, in a lot of cases, completely separated from it’s non-PG-13 balls***. The Avengers was an okay movie, but this…this is so much better for the hard “R” rating it earns so prodigiously. I wish I could talk about some of the stuff I saw.
Maybe I will. With a therapist.
I remember when I saw Tim Burton’s Batman in the theaters. I felt a great sense of relief that they had stepped away from the TV show’s silliness and back into the murkier psychological waters of the comic books. (well, half-stepped…Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy was the full step.) I feel the same way about Dredd. It’s not a brilliant film, but it’s a good film with moments of brilliance that reclaims the Judge Dredd of a certain geek’s childhood from the sloppy and mumbly hands of Sylvester Stallone. You can be sure, when Karl Urban’s mouth says “I am the Law.” no one in the theater will be laughing.
Go see this.
* A rather rote plot you will recognize instantly from the also-excellent film, The Raid: Redemption.
** NOT THE EFFING STALLONE MOVIE!
*** Kick-Ass is a worthy and notable exception to this observation.