Sunday, May 04, 2014

Sense of Dredd

Sylvester Stallone's Judge Dredd is among the worst movies I've ever seen. Coming back from an out-of-town trip to a Renaissance Festival many years ago, the group I was with insisted on going to see it and dragged me along. In my life, I've only ever abandoned four movies without finishing them -- and only one of those involved me actually walking out of a movie theater. But I would have walked out of Judge Dredd if I could have.

So needless to say, seeing the new incarnation, Dredd, was not particularly high on my list. But a number of my friends did see it, and bit by bit, the word trickled in that it was actually pretty good. So I recorded a broadcast on HBO and let it languish on the DVR for months. One evening, it finally bubbled to the top.

Dredd isn't a masterpiece action movie by any stretch, but it does get a number of things right. For one, it has key actors in it doing very good work. Karl Urban is excellent in the title role. He's just the right amount of hardass to be entertaining, more "unflappable" than "emotionless." Olivia Thirlby is solid as the rookie assigned to work with him. The two have a nice rapport too; while not as fun as Urban had on Michael Ealy on Almost Human (a moment of silence, please), it does elevate the proceedings.

Better still is Lena Headey as the psychotic villain of the piece. And that's another of the interesting things about the movie -- it makes the major villain a woman. I'm hard-pressed to think of another film in this genre that did that.

But otherwise, the movie is a bit too "style over substance" for my taste. The simplistic plot brushes up against some potential social commentary about poverty and overpopulation, but quickly shies away from doing much with it. Instead, you get the expected procession of action sequences, artfully choreographed to evoke comic book framing. They're certainly visually compelling, but they don't really get the blood pumping. The action is beautiful, but not tense.

So, all told, I'd probably only give the movie a C-. But that said, if you're an action fan, and you like very visually oriented films, this could well be the one for you. You could certainly do worse. Judge Dredd, the character, did once before.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Did you read the comics at all? This movie was a big nod to them. In the comics, the city itself and the way the world works are actually bigger characters than Dredd.