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Dredd

dreddI absolutely refused to see this film at the cinema when it came out because to begin with it was only available in 3D. In general I’m not a supporter of 3D films. It’s not new technology and in my opinion it’s rarely needed. If the film is relying on 3D to bolster ticket sales, then that’s worrying. Leading with 3D as Dredd did, on all of the posters, was also worrying. I don’t think Dredd needed 3D, I think it was a big enough character, big enough name, big enough world to get by without it. Anyway, after a few weeks, cinemas started releasing it in glorious Two Dee, but only late at night in my local area and not very often. Did this ultimately hurt it at the box office? I think so. Also I believe the 3D was retro-fitted and it was not all shot in 3D, so that was an extra cost that the film didn’t need. After the last Dredd film with Stallone, which I’ll come back to later, people old enough to remember it were wary. 2000AD fans were extremely nervous and some members of Joe Q Public might have gone to see something else instead of paying an extra couple of pounds to see what, in their minds, was yet another comic book film. At the moment the new Dredd has made 35 million at the box office worldwide on a 50m budget. My opinion aside, something didn’t work as well as it should.

Before watching this film I read a fair bit about it, had watched a couple of trailers and was very excited. I was also very pleased to hear Karl Urban, the NZ hunk, last seen by me in Star Trek as Bones, say he would not be taking off the helmet. It was one of many gripes about the Stallone film. We’re not supposed to know what Dredd looks like. He’s faceless and it’s his will and unrelenting appetite for justice and his name that inspires fear. To me he’s a more extreme version of Batman in a dystopian future where killing criminals is something he does on a daily basis and doesn’t feel any regret. So, having done my homework and knowing a reasonable amount about the character and the world, I sat down last night to watch.

Overall I was pretty impressed by the film. I thought it was engaging, exciting and I came away wanting more. Urban was excellent as Dredd. He was grim, had a great chin and scowl, his voice was rough without it being Batman rough, and his depiction of Dredd’s unbreakable faith in justice and law and order was great. I’ve never seen Olivia Thirlby in anything before but I thought she did a really good job as the rookie Anderson. She was tough, but she also brought a naive and slightly child-like quality to her performance as someone on the cusp of fully embracing the law and all that comes with it. Such as carrying out lethal judgments on people on the spot. While Dredd may never hesitate, she shows how much he has already lost because she was emotional and she cared, even about those who were trying to wipe her out moments earlier. Bit of a spoiler, but there was also a moment where Anderson scans Dredd with her telepathic powers and she picks up on his emotional state, someone full of rage, and she hints at something else under the surface. I’d kind of like to know what it was, but I also think you’re not supposed to know. It’s like finding out what he looks like under the helmet. Sometimes you don’t need to know every little detail about a character.

On reflection I can see why this film didn’t deliver a record weekend at the box office and make everyone go back a second time. To me it felt very much like ‘A Day in the Life of Judge Dredd’. It was just another day, just another crime. At the start of the film the rookie picks a target and they go out and take care of it. That’s it. She could just have easily picked a different one and the film would have been a bit different, but not hugely. Given the post apocalyptic world, given the futuristic setting, given the larger than life character, I think people were expecting a story on a grander scale, more like a Prometheus or a Star Wars.

The story was enjoyable, but it was everyday for Dredd. It wasn’t one tiny crime that was actually part of a much larger conspiracy which he investigated and that led into a plot to destroy the whole of Megacity One. It was a story about a drug dealer trying to flood the city with her product, protect her home and industry by getting rid of two nosey but determined Judges. For all that was wrong with the Stallone Dredd film, and there was a lot which I won’t detail, the core of the story was much bigger. The elimination of naturally born judges and birth of a new race of genetically created and severely unbalanced Judges all based on the DNA of Rico, who wanted to change the whole of Megacity.

There were explosions and lots of gunplay in both films, and mercifully the light touches of humour were black in Dredd 3D and there was no comedy sidekick this time, but the scale of the threat was pretty small. What epitomised it for me is when Anderson looks out across the city and we can see several other Megablocks with their own names in neon down the sides and you realise this is just one story, in one Megablock, in a giant city that stretches from Boston to Washington DC.

I know several other people have compared Dredd to The Raid, and have said the latter is a better film. I’ve not seen it so can’t compare, but part of me thinks they shouldn’t be comparable movies. As I said, I did enjoy Dredd, but it felt like a very small story in a giant setting. It’s like getting out a massive piece of paper and then only drawing in one of the corners. I know what comic book fans and experts on all things 2000AD might say, but the film is something divorced from the comic. It should true to the heart of the source but it should also be different and epic. Yes, you absolutely can have small and personal films on the big screen, but they don’t feature a big bloke in a helmet with a giant gun on the poster. Dredd at the cinema should be a grander story, told on a grander scale. I would love to see another Dredd film more along those lines, but unless Dredd does really well on DVD and blu-ray, I don’t think we’ll see another one for at least another17 years or so. Overall definitely worth seeing, and it’s a great action film, but I would suggest you go with the right expectations and then you won’t be disappointed.

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I Know Kung Fu

Earlier this week I was one of the hosts on a new podcast I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Bags of Action. I love action movies, so every month a group of people get together and talk about an action movie and then everyone gives it a score. In the first episode we talked about Blind Fury and in the second episode we discussed the 2011 film, Haywire, which stars Gina Carano in the lead. You can find Bags of Action of iTunes if you want to listen, but in short we had a number of issues with the film. However, we all agreed that Gina Carano was the best thing in it.

What came out of that discussion, and a couple of other places, was that with the runaway success of The Expendables and its sequel, and they have already announced plans to make a third Expendables film with Nicolas Cage coming on board, who would you cast in an all female equivalent of The Expendables?

Below are a list of names which are either suggestions from Kim Curran, who I chatted to about this over Twitter, or my own ideas. With each new Expendables film they’ve increased the number of stars in the cast, so let’s pretend there is no limit to how many we could have. So who would you cast in such a film and why?

Gina Carano – We all agreed on Bags of Action that she was amazing in Haywire. You knew that she was doing most (if not all) of her own stunts and every fight scene was her and not someone else. You completely believed that her character Mallory was someone who was very capable of looking after themselves in any situation. No doubt it comes from her own physicality, because of her MMA background and even her time on American Gladiators. Cheesy as the TV show might be, as was the British equivalent, all of the gladiators were fit and athletic people.

Cynthia Rothrock – She is a veteran of dozens of martial arts films and undoubtedly would fill the Sly Stallone role in The Expendables, perhaps pairing up with Gina Carano, as Sly pairs with The Stathem. Although she officially retired from action movies, many of her contemporaries (Norris, Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Van Damme) have recently returned to major action roles after many years away. So perhaps someone could persuade her to come back if such a film were ever made.

Linda Hamilton – Unashamedly I’m a big fan of the Beauty and Beast TV series from the late 1980s starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman. It was must see TV for me growing up, and I then saw her next in The Terminator. It was only after seeing her in T2 that I had to completely reassess my view of her as an actress. Gone was the gentle, softly spoken, curvy, kind and caring person and in it’s place was this tough, stringy, cigarette smoking, gun-toting, driven and determined soldier. I like T2, despite being very silly in places, but if you look at her role in T2 in isolation, it’s powerful, disturbing and believable as someone who has been locked up because of her delusions about killer robots from the future.

Sigourney Weaver – There’s not much I have to write about her really other than Alien franchise. She’s done it all. She is an incredibly talented actress who has played a wide variety of characters and continues to do so (I’m really looking forward to seeing her in Red Lights), but never was she more terrifying than Ellen Ripley.

Milla Jovovich – Again, I only need to write two words – Resident Evil. I’ve actually never seen any of those films as they don’t appeal, but after seeing her in other films, such as Joan of Ark and The Fifth Element, she should definitely be in the film in an action role.

Ali Larter – This is one of my choices and there again she started off with a couple of roles where she was often running and screaming in front of the camera (Final Destination) but since then she’s portrayed a wider variety of characters. From Resident Evil, to international fame in Heroes as a fairly dark character, to a femme fatale in Obsessed. I think she would be a great addition to the action team.

Gina Torres – I only need one word this time. Firefly. If you’ve not seen the TV show, then go out and rent or buy the DVD, then watch the film Serenity. Then tell me you don’t believe that her character used to be a tough space marine and I will call you a liar. She can play big, strong, tough and intimidating, but she’s also very good at funny, sensitive and caring. A powerful on screen presence and definitely not someone you would want to upset.

Michelle Rodriguez – Just about every film role I’ve seen she has been playing someone tough and usually a cop, marine, a pilot, space marine or similar. I’m sure she is capable of playing another type of character, but in this fantasy action film of my devising, we’re after actresses who are convincing as tough characters, so she is ideally suited for this sort of film.

Two others I would be remiss if I didn’t mention are Cobie Smulders, who did a great turn as Maria Hill in a little film called The Avengers, and Scarlett Johansson who was also very good as Natasha Romanoff. Cobie Smulders is an interesting actress as previously when Joss Whedon was briefly attached to write and/ or direct a Wonder Woman film for DC comics, I believe his choice for Wonder Woman was Cobie Smulders. She’s extremely accomplished as a comedic actor, as her body of work in ‘How I Met Your Mother’ shows, but in The Avengers we get to see a tougher character in a position of authority.

Other names suggested include Lucy Lawless, Wei Zhao, Zhang Ziyi, Nicola Adams, Michelle Yeoh, Anne Parillaud, Zoe Saldana and Chloe Grace Moretz, although I think the latter might be a little young despite her role in Kick Ass.

So, who would you cast, and also, for a bonus point, what would be the title of the film franchise?

EDIT – It turns out this is actually happening. An all female Expendables type film is being made, as was recently reported in Variety, and Gina Carano will be in the film and most likely in the lead role. I wonder how many others listed above will appear.

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