Commentary

October 5, 2012

Fly Over: ‘Dredd’, ‘End of Watch’

In theaters:

‘Dredd’

by Jayson Burns

In 1995, an adaptation of the British comic “2000 AD” was released, titled “Judge Dredd.” It was cheesy and ripe for ridicule, but some people (like me) see it kind of like a guilty pleasure. Still, it didn’t do well commercially or critically and fans of “2000 AD” as well as its creator do not consider it a proper adaptation. While I honestly can’t speak for these fans, I can at least assure them that the 2012 remake, “Dredd,” takes much of what went wrong and fixes it.
Taking place in Mega-City One, a large city that stretches from Washington D.C. to Boston, an elite force known as the Judges keep what little order is left of the dystopian future. Among these Judges is the infamous “Dredd” (Karl Urban), who is tasked with evaluating a new recruit, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who was born with a mutation that grants her psychic abilities. On what was meant to be a routine homicide investigation in one of the Mega-City’s 200-story tower blocks, the Judges stumble upon crime boss Ma-Ma (Lena Heady) and her illegal drug operation, which supplies the brain-affecting “Slo-Mo” to the city. Fearing they will release this information to the rest of the Judges, Ma-Ma shuts down the block and orders her men to hunt them down. Without backup, “Dredd” and Anderson make their way floor-by-floor in order to see justice done as well as to survive.
What immediately struck me about the plot to “Dredd” was that Ma-Ma’s organization was dangerous, but not as world-threatening as the antagonist’s in the original film. This, I thought, was actually a very smart move because, not only does this leave room for more sequel possibilities, but it allows “Dredd” to act like a cop and not a super hero. It also helps with the issues of a “black and white” justice system, since “Dredd” and the rookie are fighting criminals who also have families to take care of. I was also happy with how the relationship between the two Judges was handled; where some other movies have the gruff mentor treat the student like a dropout, “Dredd” treats Anderson like a future Judge (albeit gruffly). My one issue with the overall story is that we don’t get much of a detailed look into the Judge organization as a whole.
Despite never taking the character’s helmet off (which covers everything but his mouth), Karl Urban does an excellent job as a dedicated and brutally efficient Judge. “Dredd” acts stoic and cold, but there are also slight changes in his tone and body language to show his humanity. Olivia Thirlby is also great as Anderson, who is almost the polar opposite of “Dredd” in that she shows some remorse in executing criminals. Lena Heady makes for a good villain to hate (just like in her role as Cersei in “Game of Thrones”), and even though she’s about a head shorter than most of her goons she still appears threatening. The rest of the supporting cast is good as well, but no one really stands out.
Even from the very first trailer I thought the designs for the Judges and their equipment didn’t really match the more realistic future setting. Once I was able to look past it, however, I felt that since they portrayed a dystopia in a more familiar way it made the violence seem even more brutal. The film’s sound was even brutal, with a strong punch added to each gunshot. I had some problems hearing the characters’ dialogue over the music at times, but I think it may have had more to do with the theater than the actual movie. None of the effects really came off as fake to me, and the slow motion scenes whenever a character smokes “Slo-Mo” are actually pretty cool looking (and disturbing, once the bullets start flying).
Whether movie goers are familiar with the comics or not, I’m sure any action fan will enjoy “Dredd.”
This movie is rated R.

 

…..and also in theaters, ‘End of Watch’

by Macario Mora

Sorry, but as a native Phoenician I’ve always had reservations about Los Angeles. It’s dirty, expensive and the people are rude — they act as if they’ve despondently and finally become aware of their failed dreams. Plus, much like New York, their pro teams buy championships — Steve Nash anyone.
David Ayer’s “End of Watch” does nothing but reinforce my image of a crude city, but his film about a team of Los Angeles police officers on patrol in South Central LA is very good despite a plethora of holes in the story and its lack of believability.
The film revolves around Officer Taylor (Jack Gyllenhaal aka Bubble Boy) and Officer Zavala (Michael Pena) on patrol in one of the country’s toughest neighborhoods. They’re the bad boys of the LAPD and prefer a firefight to issuing traffic tickets. However, their cowboy attitude lands them in hot water when they start stepping on the toes of a Mexican drug cartel.
Taylor is also a college student, though I don’t remember his major, who is using a hand-held camera for the entirety of the movie to film a documentary for one of his classes.
I’m not a big fan of hand-helds in major motion pictures, the shakiness makes my head hurt. And in this movie it’s mostly pointless, though it does bring forth a bit of realism during the film’s adrenaline dump of a climax. Ayer also uses footage from the patrol car dash cam, which is kind of fun but again not necessary. As far as the story, much of it seems highly unlikely. Even when the pair is called to do the most mundane of tasks they suddenly discover a horrific scene, further implicating the cartel’s influence in the neighborhood.
The story sounds like a typical cop drama, and it is, but what really gives the viewer bang for their buck is watching the chemistry between Gyllenhaal and a woefully underrated Pena. The two seem to genuinely like each other, and the scenes that involve the pair bantering back and forth in the patrol car are epically funny. A lot of the humor isn’t politically correct, but right at home for those serving in the military or in law enforcement.
The duo feed off of each other’s performances throughout the film and draw the audience in emotionally. You really care for these individuals and begin to appreciate the role of your local law enforcement. I’m not naïve enough to believe that a typical day for the Phoenix PD involves firefights with Mexican cartels, car chases etc., though I’m sure it happens, but we must all appreciate the difficulty of putting your life on the line each and every day.
This film does a great job of bringing that emotion to the big screen. Toward the end I saw people with tears in their eyes and as the credits rolled the audience was enthusiastically cheering. So, grab a tissue and hold on tight because “End of Watch” is certainly a ride worth taking.
This film is rated R for strong violence, some disturbing images, pervasive language including sexual references, and some drug use.
This film is rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity and language.




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