Don't laugh. He's cooler than you think.

Don’t laugh. He’s cooler than you think.

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.

. 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?

18 thoughts on “Dredd

      • Still smarting from the Ghost Rider 2 recommendation *shudder*

        Trusting you on this one…

        PS – this is lighthearted joshing, not dreary nihilism.

        • Ghostrider 2? Don’t think you can find that endorsement, son, either here or at Instapunk. Being grumpy is your right. But that’s out of line.

          • “What would be news? One of the best sequels ever. ****Not talking here about the vigorous debate about whether Godfather I or Godfather II is superior. I’m talking about the kind of discrepancy that existed between Mad Max and The Road Warrior.**** You know. The Wow Factor. Who could believe that the first led to the second? Night and day…

            “The sequel is every bit as good as the original was bad. Nicholas Cage is what he is, sometimes good, sometimes slumming, but this time he’s got help from Ciaran Hinds, Idris Elba, and even a good cameo turn by Christopher Lambert. The special FX are better, the plot better, the pacing, cinematography, and characters better.”

            Glowing? It was better than the original. It was worth watching at the time. Did you look at the date? June 2012. The height of Obama’s assault on Romney the corporate raider. Never said it was actually a good movie. Unlike many reviewers, I put them in context. Why I recommend so many SyFy idiocies.

            Ghost Rider 2 was amusing. Dredd is actually a good movie. I trust you can tell the difference.

            I also recommended a Norwegian soufflĂ© called “Troll Hunter.” Did I say it was a great movie? I said it was fun. Like Ghost Rider 2. Better than watching the news. GR2 is STILL better than watching the news. But if you must have “On the Waterfront,” don’t watch anything that isn’t called “On the Waterfront.” Do NYT crossword puzzles instead.

            The rest of you? Ignore this tiff. Watch Dredd. Unless you have some aversion to being entertained and inspired.

    • Great recommendation. The 16-year-old me would have appreciated the gore more, but what the hell, in this movie it was actually there to help get the point across. And the rookie is, as you say, a kickass chick to die for.

  1. Good grief. You need to start putting those little mood emoticons with your posts so we know if we can make jokes with you or not.

  2. Watched it tonight and you were right. Definitely one of the best action flicks I’ve seen in recent years. I avoided this one simply because the Stallone one was so awful and would not have watched it w/out your recommendation, so thanks. I hereby officially forgive you for Ghost Rider 2.

    Now to see what those Braves are up to…

  3. Never even saw the first version, but this could be just what the doctor ordered on a grim October, when human nature is showing its worst all over the place. I’m in.

    Incidentally, I’ve been around, and reading regularly, but have been rather dented by reality and haven’t had anything to say worth saying. Your photos of graceful, shaggy giants do my heart worlds of good, on top of the convivial and curmudgeonly reading.

  4. Two words explain why this one worked so well: Alex Garland. The guy started out as a brilliant novelist (“The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio was a POS, but read the book, and when you’re finished, read “The Tesseract”). He flirted with screenplays (had a fruitful collaboration with his fellow Brit Danny Boyle, which gave us “28 Days Later” and “Sunshine”), which was good inasmuch as it meant very literate films, but bad inasmuch as Garland has now permanently been seduced away from what I think is his true calling.

    Still, the silver lining is that his gifts don’t go unappreciated, especially by old punks. I’m guessing Garland was familiar with the comic strips in no small part due to who his father was. Nicholas Garland was and is one of the best political cartoonists around. If you want to see both men in action, read “The Coma.”


  5. We watched this over the summer, really enjoyed it far more than we ever expected to. We were in a great position, as we had never seen the Sly version and had no preconceived notions about how good or bad it might be.

    Dredd is played by the new Bones from the new Star Trek, and I felt like he could act *through* the mask, mouth only. Loved it.

    DId you recognize the bitch villainess? We couldn’t believe our eyes, but it is indeed Lena Headey, the wife from 300 and the nastiest queen from Game of Thrones. Well cast.

    I loved this movie and I’m glad that you loved it. I’ve generally sworn off putting myself out there with recommendations on this site and the last because our tastes have differed wildly in the past, but I may try again. Who recommended Troll Hunter first, you or me? I thought it was great, and I told you that Cabin in the Woods was a masterstroke in the genre. And we both loved Inception.

    • “Dredd is played by the new Bones from the new Star Trek, and I felt like he could act *through* the mask, mouth only.”

      Wow, good catch. I agree.

      Only downside to this was that it felt more like a pilot episode than a proper movie. Not because it was bad but because it only explores a very small slice of the world and leaves you wanting more.

      Very cool movie, though, even if it’s not followed by anything else.

    • As I recall, we mostly differed about Tarantino. Not much else.

      Well, I can’t recall any others that stick with me particularly. I explained my philosophical and esthetic issues, and you acknowledged them. all I can ask. Some things are just matters of preference, not much more. As Vergil said, “Degustibus no disputandum est.” You’re always free to be candid about your recommendations and reservations.

      Besides Deerhound Diary is nicer than the other place, don’t you think?

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