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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Here Come da Judge. Dredd is the Law!

Don't let the previews fool you, as I did. I had no intention of seeing this flick after watching the trailer. I didn't even plan on renting it from Redbox when the DVD comes out.

Then fate intervened.

On date night with the missus, I took her to Olive Garden, then the 9:30 showing of some artsy suspense flick. Only we had our information wrong and the artsy suspense flick wasn't until midnight. She graciously offered to watch something else, since we were already at the theater anyway. What the heck, sez I, and we buy tickets for Dredd. If it's as bad, or worse, than that lackluster Stallone vehicle from the '90s, I could simply let that pasta from Olive Garden work on my eyelids and snooze the ten buck ticket price away.

I did no snoozing.

I've been hearing remarks that this flick is a knock-off of The Raid. I've never seen The Raid so I can't weigh in on that. What I can say is that Dredd is much more faithful to the comic book source material than I expected. Certainly more than the forgettable Sly action-comedy.

For those not familiar with Judge Dredd, he was the title character of a British comic book from the '80s, about law enforcement in a post-nuke America. (Well, maybe the comic is still being produced...all I know is I haven't seen the comics for quite a while.) In the recovery from a thermonuclear war, The entire eastern seaboard of the erstwhile USA has become one gigantic urban sprawl called Megacity One. You got that right--all the rural areas between cities and towns has been filled in with asphalt, concrete and glass, from the Big Apple to Miami. It is an autonomous city-state, with a streamlined justice system. Dredd is basically Dirty Harry in this post-apocalyptic world; officially empowered as judge, jury and executioner. And he rides the mac-daddy of all motorcycles.

There is also a Megacity Two on the west coast of North America, with a ruined wasteland ("the Cursed Earth") in between. (That's pretty much how New Yorkers and Los Angelites view things already, come to think of it.) In an issue of my collection, it is revealed there's an eastern Megacity also, with neo-Soviet judges maintaining order on their streets.

In this movie, Dredd is assigned a rookie whose test scores are just below passing, to assess her potential as a judge. We soon discover she's an empath, too, and her mind-reading skills make her a beast of an interrogator.

The bulk of the film takes place inside a fortress/tower/slum, where Judges Dredd and Anderson are locked in with an army of cutthroat gang-banging scum, hell-bent on killing them. The action is just about non-stop, and the bloody gore is simply Dreddful. (Sorry; couldn't resist.)

This wasn't the result of some beancounting suits commissioning another buddy-cop action comedy dressed up with props and costumes inspired by the comic. The film makers, this time, seemed to know and appreciate the source material.

So many visuals looked to me like they were lifted directly from the pages of the comic--especially the close-ups of Dredd himself. Megacity One didn't quite look like Megacity One in the comics, as I remember them, and the judges' bikes weren't quite as impressive, but they got so much else right, there was eye candy everywhere (no, I'm not talking about the blonde rookie, you pervs).

The most important aspect they got right this time was the Judge Dredd character himself. I applaud them for not going with a big star who would be taking his helmet off every 30 seconds to mug for the camera, and would insist on some stupid subplot or dialog revisions (ruinations) to show his soft, gooey inner teddy-bear soul. I applaud them for writing the dialog as they did. I applaud them for not soapboxing about the Occupy Movement, global warming or the need for taxpayer-funded prophylactics.

I applaud them for respecting the source material and still putting together a great popcorn-muncher that all action junkies should go and see.


  1. I'm all in to watch this 'Dreddful' movie. That was very smooth how you got your wife to attend. I aspire to be that smooth.

  2. When you can snatch the pebble flom my hand, glasshoppa.


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