We Want Action: Dredd (2012)

dredd-poster I’m turning into an old man or rather an even older man, depending on your perspective, I guess. I used to be able to stay up all hours of the night and then get up and do what I needed to do, but since our daughter has started getting up between 6:30 and 7:00AM every morning, those are days of the past. I only say all this because it wound up taking me three or four nights to actually watch Dredd. That’s in no way a commentary on the movie itself, just my inability to stay awake past midnight most nights.

Anyway, Dredd is one of those movies that didn’t seem to have much of a PR push behind it, snuck into movie theaters and did almost no business (it only made $36 million worldwide with a $50 million budget). But, the people that did see it all seemed to love it. I’ve got to agree with the folks that dug this movie because it’s pretty fantastic and requires absolutely no knowledge of the longstanding title character whose been starring in 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine over in the UK for decades.

The basic concept here is that, basically, the entire eastern coast of the United States has morphed into one giant city called Mega-City One. It’s an overcrowded  corrupt place filled with degenerates, criminals and people just trying to get by. The only ones standing between the good and the bad are the Judges, a group of law officers who not only enforce the law, but also mete out punishment according to the law. The film follows Judge Dredd (played by Star Trek‘s Karl Urban) as he trains rookie officer Cassandra Anderson (the bewitching Olivia Thirbly) who also happens to be a mutant with psychic abilities. While out on patrol they’re called to a massive building that’s essentially a project house that’s run by a drug running gangster called Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). Dredd and Anderson wind up getting trapped inside the building with Ma-Ma’s goons gunning for them and things play out from there.

Yes, it sounds like a futuristic version of The Raid, but stylistically, there are completely different approaches to the basic idea of fighting mobsters in a high-rise. While The Raid gets so real and intense that it’s almost disturbing, Dredd kept a kind of hyperkinetic-but-still-real tone that featured futuristic, voice-activated weaponry, a bit less hand-to-hand combat and more explosions and giant guns.

I haven’t seen any of Pete Travis’ other movies, but I thought he did a really killer job with Dredd. The movie keeps itself in a fairly limited locale that doesn’t require a gigantic budget but does that one location really, really well. You can tell from watching that this film was basically a test of concept for the viability of Judge Dredd in film. While it might not have been a financial success, I’d say it was a successful proof of concept. I really felt the intensity of Dredd as an upholder of the wall ans I thought Thirbly was just mesmerizing to watch and the world felt real and raw and like the kind of place that needs these kinds of protectors. I would love to see a more sprawling story set in this world, but that’s probably not happening any time soon. To feed the Dredd jones I now have, I’m trying to get my hands on the first volume of the Judge Dredd Complete Case Files, but the person I tried to buy it from on Amazon bailed on the transaction (I’m guessing because they realized the $14 book they were selling was much lower in cost than the $30 versions other people are trying to sell) and have since placed a bid on an ebay auction. We’ll see. There’s a lot there to get through, but it’s a journey I’m willing to take…if I can get the books relatively cheap.

We Want Action: RED (2010)

With all the election nonsense clogging up the airwaves last night, the missus and I decided to have ourselves a little dinner and a movie date and saw RED and The Destinta, an awesome independent theater near our place that does discount tickets on Tuesdays. We decided on this flick because the missus liked the cast and we both figured this would be better to watch on the big screen than a drama or comedy. And, boy, did we both have a lot of fun with the flick.

The idea is that Bruce Willis, a retired CIA agent has been marked for death. Since he’s been flirting with customer service rep Mary-Louise Parker has been targeted to, so he grabs her and goes on a cross-country chase trying to figure out why Karl Urban’s after him, enlisting the help of fellow older killers Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Brian Cox. With the exception of a few stiff line delivers, I think this might be Willis’ best movie in a while (Cop Out was okay, Surrogates was interesting, but didn’t really take up much rent space in my brain) because the action is solid (though I wish they hadn’t shown that scene of him getting out of the spinning car in the previews because it takes away a little bit of the awesomeness having seen it a billion times in the commercials). I was worried that Freeman and Mirren might have just signed up for this flick for a paycheck, but it seemed like they had a good time, or at least took it remotely seriously. I liked Parker more in this one movie than almost all of Weeds. Urban really proved himself to me in this flick. He was great in Star Trek, but he was basically interpreting someone else’s performance in that movie and really got to show what he can do in this one from both an acting and action perspective. And, damn, Malkovich as the paranoid-but-right dudes was just so damn perfect.

For whatever it’s worth, I didn’t read the comic the movie is loosely based on written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Cully Hamner. It came out while I was in college and working solely off of my established pull list. I don’t think I’d read any Ellis books at that point and it doesn’t sound like I’ve missed a whole lot. RED sounds very violent and pretty basic, kind of like Ellis’ later team-up with Hamner for Top Cow Down, which I read and dug, but don’t even think I’ll need to revisit. The movie, on the other hand, I think I’ll watch a few more times, especially if it comes on on a Saturday afternoon or I come across it on Instant. It’s fun and funny and has a nice, but not too gooey, romantic plot that doesn’t diminish any of the characters.

I had three random thoughts while watching this movie. First off, I think they filmed the rocket launcher scene in this movie (which was awesome all around, by the way) in the same place they filmed the finale of The Losers, which is kind of funny because they’re both movies based on obscure comic properties owned by DC. I don’t know what they call those giant, rectangular metal shipping boxes, but that’s what tipped me off. Second, related to the first, actually, is that the trailer was randomly spoilery. So, SPOILER WARNING if you care. One major and one minor plot point can be figured out just by watching the trailer. The major one is that Freeman isn’t really dead after the attack in the nursing home, which you know because you see him with Mirren in the preview. The minor one is that the red headed woman is actually following them. Malkovich hassles the lady, but you’re supposed to just think he’s paranoid. Of course, if you’ve seen the commercial for the movie, you know she’s the one that fires the rocket at him. And finally, I wonder if Kevin Smith had problems with Willis on the set of Cop Out. On the most recent Smodcast (#143), Smith mentioned that the main different between filming Cop Out and Red State is that on the former there was someone who clearly didn’t want to be there and on the latter everyone was excited to make the movie. You’d think it would be between the two leads–Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis–if it caused a certain amount of problems or headaches, but Smith defended Morgan on Twitter the other day, so I’m wondering if he was referring to Willis. For what it’s worth, Smith has also praised Adam Brody and Kevin Pollack in various podcasts, which seems to leave Willis. Knowing Smith, I wouldn’t be surprised if he eventually came out and told that tale. I’d definitely be curious to hear it and also figure out if I was right.