Saturday, September 14, 2013
I'm not the law, I'm the guy who winds up dead because he's too busy patching up other people!
Screenplay By: Alex Garland
Directed By: Pete Travis
Olivia Thirlby, the character of Anderson, is not the person I expected to open up my review of Dredd with. To say that I was surprised by the way her character was presented would be an understatement. She has a great arc, one that could easily slip under the radar of many a viewer if they weren't paying attention. She begins as the typical rookie, and at some point slips into the role of the helpless woman. Dredd isn't your typical damsel in distress action film, and the way that Anderson responds to being in jeopardy proves as such. Miss Thirlby provides just the right amount of emotion at every stretch of the film. Her emotions and her character arc are very important to the larger picture in Dredd. She is the humanity in the film, and it's important that when she is pushed against a wall she responds. And respond Anderson does, transforming from the damsel in distress into a damn fine ass kicker. The character of Anderson is the most obvious example of how Dredd is more than just a typical action flick.
Dredd gets right to the point and it's a film that never minces its words. This is an action film that goes full throttle from beginning to end. The backstory of the film is given in a very matter of fact fashion, and the film never stops to enter story mode. The reason for this is that Dredd is always in story mode. The action in Dredd tells the story, and it keeps the viewer in line with where the film wants to go and what the film wants to say. The audience learns everything they need to learn about Judge Dredd through the way he carries himself during the action of the film. It's not that Dredd doesn't have a story to tell, it's simply that in a neat twist Dredd chooses to tell its story through its action instead of padding out the run time of the film with needless exposition.
At first I was irked by the visuals in Dredd. The slow motion effect was handled nicely, but I wasn't sure about the almost neon like blood. The first few times it took me out of the film and made me question what I was watching. I stuck with the film and over time the visuals of blood letting took on a different label in my mind. They were no longer irksome, but they were stylish in a way that gave the film energy. Being based on a comic book the way the slow motion visuals, and blood work, are handled is very reminiscent of said comic book roots. The visuals are splashy, and a tad gaudy, but they are very clean and let the viewer know exactly what is happening at every turn. Dredd isn't a film about trickery, the visual style of the film isn't intended to trick but to pay homage to the brighter world of comic books.
I would be remiss if I didn't bring up Serbuan maut in my review of Dredd. I know this is a touchy point for some people, but for my money the connection is an obvious one. Both films are about the adrenaline of action, and are very similar plot wise. The key differences come into play in the way that each film handles its story and its lead character. The story in Serbuan Maut is not a good one, and while the action is marvelous enough to overcome its lackluster story the film is ultimately hurt by said story. The story in Dredd is a strength of the film because as I stated above the action in Dredd tells the story and thus the film doesn't rely on any cliched dramatic beats within the story. The hero in Serbuan maut is a hero, the same is not true for Judge Dredd. He is an avenging figure, and almost machine like in his drive to dispense justice. We see at the end that he is human, but he's still a killing machine and that is the main function he serves during the film. The connection is present between Dredd and Serbuan maut, but each are their own film and are great for different reasons.
A couple of years ago I was one of the few people lamenting the nature of the modern action film. Films like The Bourne Ultimatum and Transformers were prime examples of what was wrong in action cinema. My tune has changed to the point where in 2013 I'm convinced action cinema is in the middle of a renaissance. The big budget blockbusters have been getting it right more than they have wrong when it comes to action cinema. A film like Dredd is a clear sign of a return to form for action cinema. The editing in Dredd is fluid and the action is easy to follow. Most of all, the action in Dredd makes great use of spatial relations and character placement. I hope more people discover Dredd, because this is action cinema that the film community needs to support. Movies like Serbuan maut, Pacific Rim, The Avengers, and Dredd show that action cinema in the 2010s is making a comeback, and it's a comeback I welcome with open arms.
Posted by Bill Thompson at 12:00 PM