In the past, the extremely detailed, jiggling, bloody cellulite of punctured, tattooed flesh was something that you'd have to go all the way to Japan to see. But with "Dredd 3D," it's playing at a theater near you.
"Dredd 3D," a very entertaining, bone-crunching midnight movie, will linger in Fanboy conversation for quite some time. It'll be Exhibit A whenever someone starts whining about an upcoming remake. "What about 'Dredd,' huh? What about 'Dredd?" I can practically hear the trolls saying now. It's not really a valid argument – because unlike, say, "Total Recall," or "Straw Dogs" or the upcoming "RoboCop" (or the threatened "Videodrome,") the first "Judge Dredd," wasn't, by any measurable accounts, any good.
Rather than focus on it being this being exception to the RAB rule (RAB standing for Remakes Always Blow) let's take a step back and applaud "Dredd 3D" for a more noble but less obvious accomplishment.
It may just very well be the best use of slow motion in a feature film since Leni Riefenstahl's "Olympia." (And, strangely, only a tiny bit less fascist, but "Dredd 3D" makes it pretty clear it is in on its own joke.)
The MacGuffin that gets Karl Urban's be-hemeted, monotone instrument of blunt justice to "Peach Trees," the 200-story housing/commerce/underworld/microcosm of our inevitable, horrible future is the new drug hitting the street called Slo-Mo.
Slo-Mo makes the brain process perception at an extremely retarded rate. (And, yes, please high five me for using the word "retarded" correctly). A snap of my fingers would take moments to experience if you were high on the slo-mo (which, humorously enough, has a delivery method similar to asthma inhalers, which makes this a true nerd's paradise movie if ever there was one).
Now, I don't know what it is like to trudge a mile in these dopes' shoes, but if your life is so miserable (and you're apartment so squalid) why would you want things to slow down? Isn't that just, you know, gonna remind you in painstaking detail how terrible the future is? What's more, if you're slo-mo buddy is a slob and, dare I suggest, cuts one, that's like 45 minutes trapped in a cloud of his malodorous exhaust before you can recognize, react and respond.
This aspect of slo-mo is, indeed, exploited by "Dredd 3D"'s awesome big baddie, Ma-Ma, played to scarred, ugly-toothed perfection by the still (somehow) fetching Lena Headey. Just before she sentences one of her foes to an execution, she force-feeds him a hit of the slo-mo, to ensure he'll experience and cognate every instant of the brutal end of his life.
Man, that's cold. However, and this is key, it looks awesome. Really awesome.
When I was a young chap wearing breeches and working in Thomas Edison's laboratory, we'd train ourselves to crank the motion picture photography device as close to a 24 frames per second as possible. Of course, we being tired children who never saw the light of the sun, we'd oftentimes "undercrank," meaning more film would get exposed, which is why olde timey footage often looks like everybody zipped around at ridiculous rates. (Your great grandfather lied to you when he said everyone had the speed force during the gaslight era.) However, on the rare occasion when we ate our spinach, we could "overcrank," and that, my friends, was how slow motion was born.
Nowadays, brilliant cinematographers like Anthony Dod Mantle don't need raggety Bowery boys to jump at their beck and call. (I say they don't need them – still doesn't stop the practice, thank you very much Columbia MFA internship program.) These crazy new cameras can capture images at unprecedented speeds at all sorts of light levels – and in 3-D, too. Hence, the slo-mo drug freakouts in "Dredd 3D" are some of the most striking images you are likely to see in a movie theater this year.
"Dredd 3D" is smart enough, though, to know the first rule of show business. Always leave them wanting more. There's a lot of slo-mo in the film, and always just at the right time, but just enough to get you hooked. You know what they say, the first taste is free.
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