Sometimes, even when you’re seeking distractions, dark is the way to go.
Yesterday I happened on “Dredd,” a remake of perhaps the silliest Sylvester Stallone movie ever. But my wife was away and what the hell.
Sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason why you find good things. Dredd is a good thing. Forget Stallone. This one is a well crafted triumph among action flicks. We never even see the face of the hero (is it a spoiler to reveal that Judge Dredd is Kiefer Sutherland’s sidekick from 24?) The movie is hypnotic, intense, and wonderful. I almost never watch movies more than once. Today I’m taking time out from my second viewing in 24 hours to tell you about it.
Watched just enough the second time to confirm that it’s all deliberate, incredibly well thought out, and working toward its end from Scene 1.
Cheap comparisons won’t do. Road Warrior in a high rise. Dirty Harry in an incredibly bleak future. Robocop but much much darker and less political. The Crow with a helmet. Die Hard with no laughs. Joss Wheedon’s Serenity without space travel but a kickass chick to die for. All slightly right but thoroughly wrong.
This is its own thing. Good versus evil. And evil for once rightly conceived as a destructive force that can’t be contained or mitigated or appeased with good intentions. It poisons what it touches, in this case quite literally. Society is not to blame. Human nature is. Without the rule of law, without absolutes, human life becomes an inferno. In Dante’s model, there are nine levels of hell. In Dredd there are two hundred, as many as there are stories in one Megablock of one Megacity.
Judge Dredd and his unexpectedly talented apprentice are sucked into a doomed situation. Ultimate spoiler: they win.
Why I’m watching again. The first time, all the film’s, uh, body language seemed to suggest we’d get one more bleak advertisement for the death of everything virtuous. That’s the real victory of this movie. It exploits all the dark conventions — from music to hyper violence to betrayal within sacrosanct institutions — and still permits good to prevail. Over a villainess you can’t stop hoping will die from minute one.
I have to get back to it now. I suggest you get to it soon. Judge Dredd is no vigilante. He’s a soldier. One who never ever gives up. Glorious to see.
P.S. Just finished my second viewing. I loved this movie. How many times do you watch to the end of the closing credits? I did this time. How about you?