“Invitation to Dance - It’s a Dance. And sometimes they turn the lights off in this ballroom. But we’ll dance anyway, you and I. Even in the Dark. Especially in the Dark. May I have the pleasure?” --- Stephen King :::::::::::
MY CRITERIA FOR DISCUSSION ENCOMPASSES THE HORROR GENRE AND BEYOND, SO I USE THE TERM "NIGHTMARE MOVIES". SPOILERS CAN OCCUR WITH OR WITHOUT WARNING. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
I won’t beat around the bush, Dredd (2012) kicks proverbial arse into the middle of next week. Forget that overblown disingenuous tripe that Sylvester Stallone made nearly twenty years ago (you probably had anyway), this is the real deal, or at least as close to the dark ruthless spirit of the original 2000AD comic series created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, which first appeared in the UK in 1977. Director Pete Travis and novelist-cum-screenwriter Alex Garland have fashioned an ultraviolent instant cult movie that never tries to be anything more than what it is: a futuristic shoot–em up.
Karl Urban as Dredd
Kiwi actor Karl Urban dons the Dredd suit and delivers his best Clint Eastwood persona. Although not quite the bulky build I imagined for Dredd, he commands an impressive presence and, much to fans relief, doesn’t once remove his helmet! His sidekick is rookie Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a genetic mutant psychic, under evaluation from Dredd. Together they infiltrate Peach Trees, one of the massive vertical slum complexes of Megacity One.
Olivia Thirlby as Anderson
A drug lord called Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) has control of the behemoth building and resides near the top of its 200 levels. The drug she is produced en masse is known on the street as Slo-Mo, a synthetic opiate that slows reality down to around 1% of its normal speed. It’s Dredd and Anderson’s job to bring the bitch down. There will be blood. Lots of it.
Lena Headey as Ma-Ma
I never really followed the 2000AD strip, but I admired its no bullshit attitude and loved the production design (another similar strip within 2000AD I admired and hope one day gets suitable big screen treatment is Strontium Dog). I admire director Travis’s vivid treatment of the source material. The rich, yet dirty colour of the cinematography is memorable, the opening sprawl of Megacity One (population: 800 million) is particularly awesome, while the stylized Slo-Mo sequences, in all their glistening languid iridescence, are simply stunning.
Under the influence
Curiously I noted that although the violence is extremely brutal and often very graphic, the colour and consistency of the blood has been altered, turned a slightly unrealistic look, possibly a deliberate design of the director/producers in order to slip past the MPAA without landing an NC-17 rating; American censors are notoriously hard on anything looking realistic; case in point Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976). Apparently the movie exists in two versions down under; cut and uncut, yet oddly enough both receiving an MA certificate.
Paul Leonard-Morgan’s grunge trip-hop score fits suitably hand-in-glove, but the music that rang most clear was the ambient slowed down washes that accompanied the Slo-Mo sequences.
Headey, sporting heinous facial scarring, is solid as Ma-Ma, as is Olivia Thirlby, a darling of the low-budget indie scene. Also of note in a small, but punchy role is Langley Kirkwood as Judge Lex, one of the back-up law enforcement who arrive late in the piece.
Dredd is probably the action movie of the year, and certainly one of my favourites. It’s a shame the movie has under performed overseas, but no sequel is probably a good thing. I still hope someone does Johnny Alpha though.