Saturday, September 22, 2012

JUDGEMENT TIME

Back in 1995 there was an earlier version of Judge Dredd to grace the movie screen.  It starred action man Sylvester Stallone, as the pivotal character Judge Dredd.  That movie was a disaster waiting to happen and when it was released it became that lurking disaster.  Didn't feel like the comic.  It wasn't dark and gritty enough.  The movie was just pure cheese. On top of that one of the cardinal rules were broken..Judge Dredd removing his helmet.  He never does that.  You never see Dredd in the comics with his helmet off, it's the cardinal rule of the character.  You get to know the man through the stories without ever seeing the man.  I think the reason the mask came off was to give Stallone face time with the audience.  Anyways we aren't here to dwell on what has already passed, we are here to see what the new Dredd has in store.

Judge Dredd fans should be rejoicing after seeing the movie.  This is what Judge Dredd is about and the production hits the proverbial nail on the head.  I remember reading about this when it was first in production and I had HUGE doubts as to whether or not a good Dredd movie was able to be pulled off.  One thing it needed was a mature take on it and a gritty one at that.  This film does that in spades.  It isn't rated R for no reason.  As the film opens up it really feels like a comic book come to life.  I remember reading Dredd growing up and I was very pleased with what I was seeing on screen.  Everything felt right about the movie and I knew from the get go I was going to be in for one wild ride.  Though when my wife and I sat down in our seats we noticed something odd, there were only 11 people here to see it on opening night, and that was including us.  I'm hoping, after seeing this movie, more people decide to get out and see this movie.

The story for this version goes as follows.  In Mega City 1 there are 800 million people living there in the ashes of what was once our beloved land.  Poverty and crime has gone through the roof and the only way to keep control of the streets comes in the form of Judges.  They are the judge, jury and execution if need be all in one.  They walk the streets , protecting the innocent and making sure the proper punishment is served for the crime committed.  Dredd is assigned Anderson, a female judge who is only given a second chance because of her mutant power, telepathy.  Dredd is going to take her under his wing and give her one more evaluation before deciding if she is Judge material or not.  They are soon taken to Peach Trees, a huge apartment complex that houses 750,000 tenants and where the unemployment rate is 96%.  There they must investigate who murdered three drug dealers and end up getting into an all out war with the leader of the complex MA MA.

I just have to say that this is one visceral movie.  The violence is heavy and it is relentless.  The grittiness of the movie really adds to the atmosphere that Mega City 1 is not a nice place to live and these Judges are in constant struggle just to be alive at the end of the day.  The director and crew really got a proper handle on the source material because it shows on screen.  This is the kind of movie we should have gotten with the first Judge Dredd.  For comic book movies this is one of the best translations of the material and also goes up in my list of top 10 movies of the year.

Pete Travis, who have us movies like "Endgame" and "Vantage Point" really brings the world and character of Judge Dredd to life.  I love the style Travis gives us with the movie.  The ultra slo-motion effects when druggies devour the drug slo-mo, which makes you think time is moving at 1% of regular speed.  It's like watching a painter paint a masterpiece on canvas.  It is a work of art.  Travis really sets a nice pace to the movie and it never feels to fast paced and it never drags.  There wasn't an instant where I wanted to check my watch to see how much we had left.  This is how it should be in a movie like this.  You want to pace the story at a good clip but not too fast that part of the story gets glossed over and not too slow that you lose your audience. Travis really knows how to balance the story sections of the movie with the high-end action sequences.  I also loved the gun play.  Guns were not fired randomly just to have gun fire.  I felt in the gun play sequences the guns were used properly and not as a prop just to have a spray of bullets, which is what brings down a lot of action movies.  The violence in this movie worked because this was a violent society.  It was gritty violence and was not glorified, at least I thought, in anyway.  I hope that if a sequel comes out of this that Travis comes back to direct.

Karl Urban from Lord of the Rings fame as well as "Red" and "Star Trek", shines on screen as the title character Judge Dredd.  Once he comes on screen you forget that you are watching Urban play the character.  It feels like Urban becomes Dredd and we see the character on screen, not the actor.  Urban did an amazing job as the Judge, especially since all you ever see of him is his mouth.  He play the part well and conveys the anger that Dredd has beautifully.  I think Urban was the best choice to play this role and I'm glad he was cast in it.   Great job by Urban as well as the cast of supporting characters.

Olivia Thirlby, who was recently in the movie "The Darkest Hour" plays the Judge in training Anderson.  I really enjoyed watching her as she did a wonderful job as the telepath who wants to be a Judge.  Her character wants to make a difference in society and knows that if she becomes a Judge that she will.  Thirlby shows guts and presence on the screen and goes to some very dark places with the character.  She is a strong addition to the cast and is definitely a lot better than she was in "The Darkest Hour"

Lena Headey from "The Game of Thrones" plays the ring leader Ma-Ma and she is one mean lady.  The character was once a prostitute who fell into the slo-mo trade and killed her way to the top and now she is in command.  Headey gives a very strong performance and plays the character to the letter.  She's mean, ruthless and doesn't take heat from anyone.  She is the kind of character that would kill you in an instant just by looking at her the wrong way.  Though under that tough skin I think there is a lost soul in there and Headey portrays that in the way she handles some of the scenes with the character.  A loose cannon character that one would not want to meet in a dark alley.  Lena makes you wish that you never run across her.

The effects in |"Dredd" were a sight to behold.  Everything looked like it belonged in the world and when the druggies would go into their slo-mo haze the screen lit up in wonderful colors.  Everything became so clear, so vibrant, even with the 3D glasses on, and it was like you were transported into another world.  The 3D was used well in this giving great depth in scenes and exploding off screen when the action gets intense.  Not only were the effects stunning but the cinematography was a beauty to behold as well.  Such a wonderfully shot movie, a sight to behold.

Paul Leonard-Morgan did the music for "Dredd".  His last score he wrote for the theatre was for the motion picture "Limitless" and he did not disappoint this time either.  The music is pounding in the action sequences but not so much that it is overbearing like the score was in the latest "Resident Evil" movie.  His music really set the tone for the scenes and really got you into everything that was going on.  Another great score from Paul Leonard-Morgan.

I can't say enough good things about this movie.  I absolutely enjoyed it from start to finish and I was wanting to head right back in and see it again if I could.  This is a great way to kick off the fall viewing season.  I am hoping that word of mouth spreads around and people get to see it, especially Dredd fans, I think you won't be disappointed.

I give this movie 5 stars out of 5.  I couldn't find fault with it.  It was, at least to me enjoyable from beginning to end and I truly felt that this movie did the comic justice.  Not too many movies come along that I give 5 stars to, especially ultra violent comic book movies.  This is a must see on the big screen.  The 3D was great but I don't think that it is needed to fully enjoy the movie.  I highly recommend this movie to anyone looking for a great thriller, action, crime movie.  Till next time my friends.

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