Wednesday, October 31, 2012

David Koepp & Pete Travis: Premium Rush & Dredd

Slapping unexpecting young audiences awake from a narcotized bad movie stupor,  genre auteurs David Koepp and Pete Travis revel in two of their headiest works.

JGL, Michael Shannon, Premium Rush, Columbia Pictures, 2012.

Koepp made a name for himself scribing Spielberg's key popcorn films; adapting Jurassic Park and Minority Report, he displayed his articulate grasp of the action-sci-fi genre, while holding onto a human element that is indispensable to his cinematic world view. Aside from scripting for 70s masters Spielberg and De Palma, Koepp helmed a few interesting pictures of his own. The Trigger Effect, Stir of Echoes, and Secret Window are all dark, corrosive movies which revealed Koepp as a serious film artist, one hand firmly on his heart, the other digging in an overpriced bucket of corn. For all of their cohesion, all three films suffer from an open-endedness that denotes near sublimity. While his newest work, the action-thriller Premium Rush, may appear to be less noteworthy than his first three films, its reliance on CGI-fueled action set pieces, and its novel plot, allow it room to breathe and for us to experience American genre in a fresh new way.

Joseph Gordon Levitt, riding on high in his breakthrough year, fills the lead role effortlessly. His sardonic young East coast bike messenger, feels like a hero Cagney would have filled yesteryear. The plot is hackneyed and beaten to death, but apparently that is the point. Koepp utilizes cliche to realize something original for this kind of clap trap; transcendence. Michael Shannon makes for one of the most bizarre villains of the year; he is truly inspiring. James Newton Howard has fun with his jaunty music score, accentuated by dark undertones. Its undeniable popcorn trash at its finest.

Karl Urban, Dredd, Lionsgate Films , 2012.

Director Pete Travis is not quite as known as Koepp. Starting out at the BBC, he displayed an early gift for melding introspective characterization with a keen sense of filmic rhythm and cinematic space. His early films Vantage Point and Endgame, were both intelligent political thrillers displaying a filmmaker with a strong sense of mise en scene. His new picture, Dredd, is based upon Carlos Ezquerra's culty 80s comic about a partly robotic cop. This premises allows Travis to explore all  of the geo-political themes he underlined; corporate greed, martial law, violence as an extension of money and power.

Karl Urban makes for a commanding male protagonist, all glowers and mumbles as Dredd. Master Director of Photography, Dane Anthony Dod Mantle, captures the otherworldly slow burn of a city at apocalypse.Novelist cum script writer Alex Garland, has fun within the confines of the genre.

Although many would consider this puerile surface level shit, that would only be gleaning the surface. Travis' subtext and visual style are refined and kinetic. Dredd shines then bleeds Hawks, Fuller, Verhoeven. Pete Travis pays homage to his forefathers, unofficially joining their ranks as one of the most underrated of up-and-coming genre auteurs.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

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