New Sharpie Portrait and my thoughts on DREDD, which EVERYONE needs to go see RIGHT NOW. Tell your friends.
As a comic book-obsessed teen I was seriously burned by Danny Cannon’s disastrous 1995 adaptation of Judge Dredd. Featuring a lifeless Sylvester Stallone, a repulsive Rob Schneider as pained comic relief, and poor Diane Lane trying desperately to hold it all together the best she could, the movie was my equivalent of nipples on the Batsuit; I had treasured my imported copies of 2000 AD that used to come into by local comic book shop, and they were read, reread, copied and traced from mercilessly. Half of them were French imports, so it would take me double the time to translate the word balloons, but I was more than happy to put in the effort. The highlight, of course, were the Judge Dredd stories, slabs of grotesque, satirical violence and metaphor presented in fully-painted glory by one of my favorite artists, the immeasurably talented Simon Bisley. Other Dredd stories were drawn with razor-sharp precision by Brian Bolland, whose ink work influenced much of my own pen styles.
There were few films in my life that I had looked more forward to in my teens than Judge Dredd, and it even had The Cure doing the theme song on the soundtrack. Imagine then, minute after crushing minute, of having to sit through the pure Hollywood desecration of one of the truly great characters in all of science fiction, all set to Rob Schneider’s insufferable cackle. It almost made me cry, it almost made me renounce cinema altogether, it was so bad.
So seventeen years later, you could understand my trepidation walking into DREDD, but I was reassured by a few things before walking in. Andrew MacDonald of Transpotting, Shallow Grave and 28 Days Later was producing, and virtuoso cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle was handling the images, so I at least was guaranteed that the film would be dark and exquisitely made. Also reassuring was the casting of Olivia Thirbly as psychic rookie Anderson. Thirlby has been on my radar as one of the most talented young actresses of her generation, a fantastic combination of nuance and unconventional beauty. I also was a fan of Karl Urban, but I’d yet to see him perform in a role that required some level of range. Judge Dredd was that opportunity, as there is a difficult balance in the character to be maintained, that of deciding what is legal and what is just.
I came out of the theater on Friday night, my jaw on the floor. This was the comic book movie I’d been waiting so long for. Unapologetic, raw, gorgeous and rip-roaring fun. DREDD bristles and cracks with the same energy of 2000 AD comics, and does not hold back on the ultraviolence that permeated those pages. The script is threadbare but efficient, allowing for some the most impressionistic and gorgeous sequences of bloody asskicking that I’ve ever seen. Thirlby is a revelation as a conflicted mutant, pacing her transformation into a Judge pitch perfectly, never losing her instinctual womanhood in the process. Urban plays Dredd with dead-on accuracy, allowing only brief glimpses of humanity as he defies his own rules in accordance to the greater law. There are one-liners and giant leaps of faith, but they are done with perfect integration into the physics of the universe set within the film.
DREDD is, hands down, one of the very best films of the year. Dod Mantle strongly deserves his second Oscar nomination for the impressionistic camera he wields in this film, and I’d even give Thirlby a best supporting nod for this film, which considering it is a hyperviolent action film, is a near impossibility. DREDD is a $50M budget film that outpaced, outsmarted, and eclipsed Christopher Nolan’s $250M The Dark Knight Rises by a mile, it’s the comic book film that we all deserve and should support. Unfortunately DREDD is faring extremely poorly at the box office, which is a tremendous shock to me given its strong critical support. I guess it has to live in the long, depressing shadow of the Stallone original as a half-baked remake of something that was so very atrocious that it needs to be erased from the canon of cinema. It’s a tough hill to climb, I suppose.
So in support of DREDD and an attempt to spread the word-of-mouth, I did a Sharpie Portrait of Judge Dredd, riding his intimidating Lawmaker into the scene of the crime. Drawing the portrait brought back so many fond memories of reading 2000 AD and reveling in the magic of comics, science fiction and sardonic ultraviolence. I will see DREDD again, and so should you. Support great cinema and great cinema will in turn support you via the empowerment of talented storytellers. Spread the word and don’t let DREDD die!
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