Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Dredd (2012) ***

R, 95 min.
Director: Pete Travis
Writers: Alex Garland, John Wagner (characters), Carlos Ezquerra (characters)
Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, Wood Harris, Domnhall Gleeson, Rakie Ayola, Warrick Grier

And now the pendulum swings another way entirely here at A Penny in the Well. We go from Woody Allen to futuristic comic book action. The really surprising thing, though, it that “Dredd” isn’t half bad for what it is. The Woody Allen crowd isn’t going to like it, but I don’t think anybody thought they would.

There are two movies that come to mind upon seeing this film. The first is the previous version of this comic book hero and setting, “Judge Dredd” from 1995 starring Sylvester Stallone. My only solid thought about that movie is, “Yo, Mr. Stallone.” Those of you who know the joke will get it; those of you who don’t… let’s just say, now that this version of “Dredd” exists, there will be no reason to visit that one again.

The other movie came out in North America last year as well. It’s a Thai movie that was modestly successful for a Thai movie here in the States because it somehow obtained the reputation of being a groundbreaking action movie. “The Raid: Redemption” told a very similar story to the one in “Dredd”. Both involve a high-rise building that is controlled by a ruthless drug lord. When police officers invade this building, the drug lord sets all the residents on a death hunt for the peace officers.

The major difference between these two movies seems to be that a madman directed one, while the other was directed with sanity, as sense of character and story, a knowledge of the subject matter, and even a slight notion of restraint. “The Raid”—that will suffice for the title since the addition of “Redemption” is about as senseless as the entire film—is stylized in the way it depicts its action, but involves developments that only serve the action and nothing else. There’s nothing wrong with action sequences being as over the top as they are in “The Raid”, they certainly are in “Dredd”, but in the former they tend to go on and on and on and on. Why aren’t these people dead yet?

In “Dredd” people get up and walk away from wounds and battles that no normal person could, but at least they actually seem to feel some of the damage inflicted on their bodies. “Dredd” actually spends time developing its plot and characters. They aren’t deep, but at least you can understand them and the decisions that they make. Most importantly, you can actually see what’s going on in “Dredd”. “The Raid” was needlessly dark and edited in a manner all to common, where there are so many cuts in the action, you really can’t tell what’s going on. “Dredd” isn’t great cinema, parts of it are even goofy and laughable; but it has sensible action that entertains. Much more than can be said for “The Raid”, which would only be laughable if it weren’t so unbearably drawn out.

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