Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Streaming Now - DREDD(2012) : 5 Reasons Why Missing It In Theatres Was A Mistake

Boy, did we really let genre cinema down last year.

 When the modestly budgeted DREDD 3D was released to theatres with something of a lightweight, 3D-centric ad campaign, so many of us dismissed this new take on the 2000 AD classic without heeding the ravings of many a lucky viewer. And even as it has become something of a home video hit, the welt of so many of us not heading out to support this grungy, pared-down actioner has yet to heal. And now that it is streaming for all to see via your friendly neighborhood Netflix, we have zero excuse.

Still not convinced? Well here are some really big reasons for why this pretty much obliterates memories of the mid-1990s piece of Mouse-produced malady.,

5. No Origin. No Problem.

One of the biggest pieces of storytelling that has come to plague recent comic book adaptations, is a near-mindless reliance upon retelling the origin stories of characters that are best explained through their actions. Dredd is the kind of "product of his environment" character that is best explored on a move, and Karl Urban's take on the character is well handled by a script that is comfortable enough in its own skin to just let things play out. From the opening scene, he is on the job, and despite the fact that we never see his face, we gather enough to understand that he is the very ideal of what his society has become. Cold, detached, all business, and unexpectedly laced with a hint of sadness. Once we are in the thick of the action (which is right from the getgo), the film never lets up, and allows us to view him from multiple angles by way of his trial-day rookie partner, Psy. Judge Anderson(Olivia Thirlby). It's a device that has been used in many adaptations before, but here, we have a thematic one-two punch served within a deceptively simple action setup.

4. The Power Of Simplicity.

By setting a majority of your film in a confined space ( in this case, a skyscraper-sized apartment complex), your film is allowed to make the absolute best out of a limited budget. Strangely enough, my initial impressions of the film took me back to my childhood, and the stripped down favorites I grew up with. That's right, much of Dredd is ostensibly a John Carpenter-esque piece of hardcore. With the judges trapped inside a building, surrounded by hapless tenants, as well as an army of gang members toting some serious hardware, there is an almost reverse Assault On Precinct 13 air about the film.(It doesn't hurt that the pulsating electronic score by Peter Leonard-Morgan evokes mental images of Assault, and even Cameron's original Terminator) And even as many make parallels to Gareth Edwards' The Raid, there is an astonishing amount of attention to detail, and imagery here that perfectly compliments the nasty side of this dystopian hell in which these characters reside. Old saws truly do apply to this instance, as the film plays it wholly straight, and without terrible one-liners or a desperate need to over explain. It does what it does, and will not make excuses.

3. Frightening & Fascinating Villainy

It's pretty hard to make a mark with an action vehicle heavy, but Lena Headey does so with the assured poise of a pro. Her "Ma Ma", is a broken, terrifying piece of work. A one-time working girl, who has seen far too much, and can only see a bloody way out of a life of pain. Even as the film rarely makes caveats for us to feel sympathy considering her often vile acts, there is a tragedy to her overall speech, posture and gait that imply far more than is on the page. It's pretty clear that her more recent life as gang leader, and possible future kingpin has been one of sheer survival. And she will resort to anything to maintain her standing - even murdering innocents. All in the name of saving what small piece of the city she has attained for herself. It's a remarkable, sneaky performance that adds surprising depth to the themes that hover ever-so carefully around the siege narrative.

2. Themes Of Perception Vs. Desperation

One of the movie's most unexpected elements, is perhaps a favorite of mine in that Dredd himself as an icon of intensified moral authority, is placed under just as much a symbolic microscope as the villains. In fact, I wonder if that was perhaps the entire goal this time around with Danny Boyle's occasional collaborator, Alex Garland on the screenwriting duties. There is much to be mined here through the eyes of rookie Judge Anderson, who goes into the fray without a helmet, and soon is reminded of her own background as an impoverished child - unfettered by the cynicism that seems primed to absorb every single person in Megacity One. She sees all sides of the conflict cornered into a world of binaries. She sees the questions lingering all about the bursts and the blood, and becomes the human center of the piece. There is even a representative on Ma Ma's side in the form of an appointed security monitor, who is clearly doing this out of fear of death - or worse. In a society that has been pushed into a world of black and white, oversimplified "right" versus "wrong", there is only carnage. When all is assessed, it is Anderson who might very well represent an unspoken quantity in a world obsessed with fighting over scraps of the dead. She is the eyes of what has been lost, and hopefully represents a more even-handed future. Not bad for a movie rife with almost balletic gore & bloodshed.

1. A Truly Adult Action Piece

We are living in the era of the PG-13 action film. Sad to say, but this carries a lot of truth. We have been lulled into expecting most action fare to either cater to teens, or to adults with lessened visual and thematic raucousness. (IE - lessened visceral impact) Thank goodness to director, Pete Travis, and company for sticking to their guns and delivering a rarity outside of straight to video fare; a mean and nasty action film with thought and vision to spare. A wild reminder of just how good movies like this can be when made in the hands of inventive and resourceful craftspeople, looking to reclaim what has become a long lost genre relative. Marketing can only be blamed so much. The rest is always..on us.

Nice to sense that relative around, even if for a little while.

Again. It's now at Netflix

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