Friday, December 27, 2013

Movie #236: Dredd

Dredd is a hyper-violent action movie based on the Judge Dredd comics, starring Karl Urban's chin, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, and Wood Harris.

In the future, America is an irradiated wasteland, except for MegaCity One, a huge sprawl housing 800 million people in gigantic apartment complexes. There's a lot of violence, crime, and drug use, and cops have been replaced by judges - dour, faceless folks with big guns who are empowered to dispense justice (including death sentences) on the spot. The movie opens with Judge Dredd (Urban) killing a bunch of druggies, and then getting a rookie (Thrilby), who failed her judge exam...but she's psychic, so they've let her stay.

They take a call from Peach Trees, where three skinned bodies have just plummeted to the ground. They find where the bodies came from, kill some thugs, and take one guy into custody (Harris). But it turns out he works for the head gangster/dealer, MaMa (Headey), and she figures he'll talk under interrogation, so she locks the place down and has all her dudes go judge-hunting.

Now, I can't speak to how well this emulates the comics, 'cause I've never read them. I do think, though, that this movie gets a lot right. For one thing, Anderson, the psychic, is not a slave to her powers. She can control them, and when a Harris' character tries to out-mindfuck her, she turns it right around. The villain of the piece is a woman, but she's not an oversexed seductress. She's vicious and evil and utterly fucked up, but also lethally efficient. She knows that if the judges get to her, she's dead - she can't hide behind a legal system, and so everything she does has a hint of nihilism.

As for Dredd himself, we never learn a damn thing about him. Anderson says in the beginning that she senses anger and control and...something else, but that something else is never defined. Dredd has an obvious regard for the law (he won't shoot Kay because all they have him on is drug possession, and even though Anderson is 99% sure he's a killer, that's not good enough). Urban brings an intensity to him that's appropriate, and even when he's in trouble, he's serious - not making stupid jokes, not out of control, just doing his job.

I also like that Dredd never has to save Anderson, and I like the way the movie treats its women. It doesn't treat them well, but no one gets treated well, and everyone gets the same level of shit. There's a threat of rape against Anderson, but it never moves beyond threat. Sure, she gets caught, but she saves herself, and then saves Dredd. MaMa gets the same kind of brutality a man would in her position, and Dredd never comments on her sex or her origins. She's just a criminal to him.

Oh, and the cinematography is awesome. Michelle feels they went for a comic-book panel feel, and that makes sense. The slo-mo drug scenes are also really awesome. I'm rather looking forward to the sequel, actually.

My grade: A-
Rewatch Value: Medium-high

Next up: Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets