Archives for posts with tag: Judge Dredd

Expendables 3

Expendables 3 has hardly begun before the titular crew of mercenaries is massacring prison guards to liberate murderer Wesley Snipes. Typically for the series, the film simply expects the viewer to take for granted that the “good guys” would never shoot anyone undeserving of death. (Speaking of which, no Expendables review would be complete without the obligatory reference to how close to death some of these guys appear. “Relax. You’re gonna give yourself a stroke,” Stallone is warned before his upcoming adventure.)

This entry in the franchise does, however, evince more of something approximating a heart or emotional center in its plot involving renewed conflict between Stallone and treacherous ex-partner Mel Gibson, whose presence does much to enhance part 3. Gibson, now an arms dealer, has been deemed a war criminal, and CIA honcho Harrison Ford, in a role alluding to his turns as Jack Ryan in Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994), hires Stallone to retrieve him from Central Asia for trial at the Hague.

What ensues is tons of dumb fun, with better action scenes that dispense with the gallons of CGI gore on display in the previous outing. The viewer almost forgets what villains the heroes’ real-life counterparts are. A campy charm attaches itself, admittedly, to the wince-worthy scene in which Ford, providing air support for the beleaguered Expendables and obviously embarrassed by the unimaginative dialogue, half-heartedly mumbles, “Drummer’s in the house.” Expendables 3 is worth a rental for that moment alone.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Expendables 3 is:

7. Disingenously anti-torture. In one of the movie’s biggest unintentional laughs, CIA creep Harrison Ford complains that Gibson is responsible for the torture and killing of two of his men. As Gibson later says of Stallone’s character, “He thinks he’s the good guy.”

6. Pro-drug. There is a lighthearted feel to a scene in which Kelsey Grammer’s flying is impaired by his drunkenness. The Expendables get together to drink in celebration of a successful mission, while Dolph Lundgren, whose combat readiness is unaffected, just likes to drink for the picturesque hell of it.

5. P.C. Snipes objects to Stallone using “spook” with reference to a CIA agent.

4. Feminist. Ronda Rousey plays a tough-as-nails bouncer-cum-soldier whose looks conceal deadly fighting prowess. “Men,” she huffs with contempt before fatally shooting a man.

3. Anti-family. “If you’re lookin’ to go the family route, it’s the wrong job for you,” Stallone admonishes Rousey. “There are different kinds of family,” she replies. “And when my life is on the line, that’s my family fighting with me.” In other words, a gaggle of ragtag cutthroats is no less valid a pillar of personal and national stability than some old-fashioned assemblage of the biologically related.

2. Multiculturalist. In addition to two black Expendables and an Asian one, this third installment adds a Latino as a nod to that group’s demographic ascent, with Antonio Banderas providing some odd comic relief as a lonely acrobatic weirdo desperate for an excuse to machine-gun people.

1. Neoconservative. Like the other Expendables films, this third entry continues the work of conditioning the American male to accept overseas hellraising and mass murder as an exciting career opportunity, or at least as something deserving of their patriotic admiration. “I am the Hague,” Stallone says in triumph, alluding to his famous line from Judge Dredd (1995). In other words, the United States as the indispensable superpower and global force for gay, is exceptional in that it constitutes in itself – and even through the acts of its lowliest mercenaries – the world’s judge, jury, and executioner. “Very tribal,” Gibson says of the Expendables’ penchant for ritual murder – leaving the viewer to determine which Tribe he has referenced in his remark. As usual with this sort of movie, too, there is a dig at nationalist Russia, with Gibson spending some time there and giving the impression that Putin’s New Nazi Germany Russia is some sort of haven for evildoers.

The CIA no longer even cares if Americans know it conducts dirty wars through mercenary proxies. “This one’s off the books. I’m not even here,” says Ford, clearly thinking himself very cute. Those incorrigible Central Intelligence scamps! Oh, well – boys will be boys. Maybe a couple of decades from now, Hollywood will be making action movies celebrating the “ISIS” scam and the takedown of the evil Assad regime. “We killed a lot, but we saved more lives than you can possibly imagine,” Gibson excuses his days as a hired assassin for the Company. Whatever.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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dredd-poster

After the nuclear holocaust, the ruins of America’s eastern seaboard are united under police state rule as Mega City One, a sprawling urban squalor infested with crime, with “only one thing fighting for order in the chaos: judges.”  One such judge is Dredd (Karl Urban), a man whose passionate dedication to law enforcement is so profound that his mouth is permanently frozen into a psychotic pout as he zooms around the city righteously blasting tattooed dopeheads.

In Dredd, the titular hero has an especially rough day on the job when, along with rookie partner Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), he finds himself locked into a ghetto megastructure (the overgrown futuristic equivalent of a housing project) and pitted against its masters, drug queenpin Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her minions.  The resulting adventure approximates The Running Man meets Escape from New York meets Assault on Precinct 13, with police woefully outnumbered against frightening futuristic odds.

With its charismatically grim avenger and pulsing electronic music, Dredd makes for a fairly slick glorification of authoritarian skull-cracking and high-tech fascism.  There remains in the public’s imagination a fascination and a seduction in quasi-vigilante cops after the Dirty Harry mold; Dredd, likewise, in its more macho moments, almost succeeds in lulling its audience into idiotic obedience in slavishly licking the iron heel.

An irony of Dredd‘s dangerous indulgence toward the police state, however, is its desire to depict iron-fisted government brutality as the solution to social problems which, though the script seems oblivious of the fact, are actually caused by the policies of precisely that glorious fascistic leviathan.  Manufacture and sale of drugs appear to be the major generators of wealth for the ghetto dwellers; but the state, through its prohibition of the people’s livelihoods and pastimes, has only succeeded in creating hellholes of systemic violence in which only the most vicious criminals and corrupt police are allowed to profit and thrive.  The exorbitant level of unemployment indicates that Mega City One’s Hall of Justice is probably doing its enlightened utmost to strangle other potentially productive areas of commerce, as well.

Dredd‘s budgetary constrictions rarely interfere with its considerable entertainment value.  The action scenes are adequate, the pace is consistently brisk, and the evocation of a grimy, dystopian future is sordidly picturesque and amusing if also somewhat half-baked.  Urban is quite watchable in the lead and Dredd lays a workable foundation for a potentially fun series of films down the road.

4 of 5 possible stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Dredd is:

7. Antiwar.  Nuclear conflict has destroyed most of America.

6. Pro-miscegenation.  It’s the progressive future, so it’s casual.

5. Torture-friendly.  Psychic interrogation may be more efficient, but an old-fashioned beating is also acceptable.

4. Multiculturalist.  The Chief Judge (Rakie Ayola) is black, as are representative medical professionals.  As in 80s vigilante films, street gangs, or at least the Ma-Ma Clan, are a multiracial affair (but one gang, the “Red Dragons”, is all Asian, apparently, and another group identified as “the Judged” is represented by a brown face).  In progressive acknowledgment of multiple intelligences, affirmative action is in effect in Hall of Justice human resources decisions.  Anderson, who has failed her qualification examination by a margin of three points, is given a chance because she is psychic.

3. Feminist/pro-castration.  Tough-as-nails Ma-Ma, formerly exploited by an abusive pimp, “feminized the guy with her teeth”, took over his business, and built a successful drug empire.  Humor is more than once milked from the idea of damaged or destroyed male sexual organs.  A thug is doomed from the moment he taunts Anderson, “Got any last words, bitch?”

2. Anti-drug.  Slow-mo, the illegal drug of choice in the futuristic ghetto, creates an experience of reality that moves at 1% normal speed.  It is evil for postponing the user’s inevitable progress into the glorious future.  Thus, conservatism or resistance to change is reimagined in Dredd as a narcotic addiction and an obstacle to big government new world order progressivism.

1. Statist/fascist.  Society, breaking under its own weight, needs to be protected from itself.  Search warrants, Miranda rights, habeas corpus, right to trial, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment are annoyances that have, conveniently for the state, been discarded in Mega City One.  Statism gives itself the ultimate pat on the back with Anderson, the psychic judge who proves that the benevolently omniscient and omnipresent state, like Santa Claus before it, knows who is naughty and who is nice.  Gun control, too, receives an endorsement when, as with Bond in Skyfall, Dredd is shown at a disadvantage against lawbreakers’ superguns with high ammunition capacity and rapid fire action.  Citizens live in fear of “the gun, [and] the gang” (presumably with reference to the private and not the public varieties).

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