PLEASE SCRUB STALLONE FROM YOUR MEMORY
Does anybody else feel like 2012 is looking a lot like the ’80s sci-fi version of “the future?”
We’re chatting through computer screens, wearing increasingly dumb hats, and using the media to convince public sector workers that they shouldn’t be allowed to go on strike. On top of that, the domestic police force is fully militarized, and we always feel one-season-of-low-ratings away from making toddlers in tiaras fight to the death on Pay-Per-View.
So it’s only fitting that at a time of high stakes and higher consequences, we’re seeing a rise in ’80s throwback action flicks, and I couldn’t be happier. I’m thrilled at the runaway success of The Expendables, the impending remake of Red Dawn, and the soon-to-be critically acclaimed Dredd 3D.
They’re violent, they’re gratuitous, they’re fun, and—best of all—they understand their place in the world: depictions of what happens when you bring trains of thought to their logical extreme.
More on that in a bit. Before we go any further, please scrub all remnants of the mid-‘90s Stallone’d adaptation of the classic 2000 AD comic, Judge Dredd, from your memory. Today’s Dredd isn’t a remake, it’s not a sequel, it’s not even a reboot. Judge Dredd was a failed volley that hit the net, and Dredd is that game-winning do-over. Or something. I don’t play tennis. And I doubt Judge Dredd does either, unless it’s with a perp’s eyeballs.
Dredd takes place in the non-specific future in a mega-city stretching from Boston to D.C., a real cesspool of urban decay. Poverty levels are high, gang affiliations are higher, and severity of law enforcement is highest. Police have been replaced by Judges, who are authorized to carry out on-the-spot sentencing (all of which are either iso-cube or death).
The fascistic overtones of such a system are not lost on this film, nor are the gray areas. The gangs aren’t right, but they’re a natural byproduct of the system, and most people involved don’t have a choice. The Judges go after the “bad” guys, but they sure aren’t helping. Nobody is on the right side or trying to make the world better, everyone just keeps upping the ante. Judge Dredd is the good guy by default, but even that gets called into question.
Describing the film, the first word that leaps to mind is “violent,” but that really doesn’t do it justice. No doubt, the movie is filled with slow-motion bullets ripping through heads, skinned bodies falling 200 stories, crowds of people shot indiscriminately.
But my God, is it strangely beautiful.
There is some truly bizarre, 1920s, pre-fascist, futurist logic applied to how to make a person’s brutal death into something pretty. And it makes sense: In a world this cold and disconnected from humanity, the only place to find any meaning or beauty would have to be in drugs and violence.
So people take a drug called “Slo-Mo” and kill/get killed. It’s a very clever cover story for what would have otherwise been a cheap, 3-D-exploiting effect. A typically unwatchable, brutal set-piece then becomes a work of art.
Dredd fulfills the promise of the original comic with the bravado of the great 1980s action flicks by working on all levels; action, adventure, satire, guilty pleasure, secret masterpiece. Those levels are there if you care. If you don’t–
HOLY SHIT, did you see that guys FACE come apart?!
RATED | R
OPENS | 9.21.12