Movie Revew: DREDD

Stars: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, Wood Harris

Rated R for sequences of strong bloody violence, language, drug use and some sexual content , Running time 95 minutes, Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi

Compare to: Blade Runner (1982), The Raid: Redemption (2012)

Having been a Stallone movie in ’94, and being a bad one at that, I wasn’t looking forward to the Dredd reboot. I’m even sick of the word “reboot.” I figured I’d be seeing just another lame attempt at cashing in on the comic book movie sub-genre we’ve got around these days. I’m glad to say though, this movie stands on its own. Dredd is quick, simple, violent, and fun.

The main difference between this film and the original (besides everything) is that it’s being sold as based on the comic book, as opposed to being a remake of the ’94 version. I’m assuming the idea is to put as much distance between this release and the ’94 crap-fest. Good move, I’d say. I’d also say its good that there’s no Rob Schneider as the wacky sidekick.

In the future, a sprawling metropolis known as Mega-City One is surrounded by an apocalyptic wasteland. But in that city, crime is rampant and the only thing keeping it from running everyone’s lives into the ground are the Judges; future cops who are able to carry out sentencing on the spot. This includes execution, of course. After being locked in a 200 story building by the mot powerful criminal in the city, Ma-Ma, Judge Dredd, an officer of strict punishment and no regrets about it. His partner in training happens to have come along with him that day and is going to use every ounce of her psychic abilities to help navigate through the tower of death and make it out alive.

The comparison to The Raid: Redemption couldn’t be helped. Released only earlier this year, the story is one of striking similarities; a unit of some of the best cops locked in a criminal base with multiple stories and must fight their way out, hopefully laying down the law as well. This is also one of the reasons I originally wrote Dredd off as a wasted time and money. What haven’t we squeezed every last cent out of? People forgot about the Stallone Dredd, didn’t they? Well then, there we go! But hey, there’s more to this than that.

The cast is good for this, with no egos coming before a comic that isn’t nearly as well known over here in the states as it is in its place of origin, the UK. I was even a little concerned with the poster, with it sharing a resemblance to a particular comic book movie released in 2003 which has been burned into my mind, with only negative consequences. Olivia Thirlby, mostly known for her roles in Juno (2007) and New York, I Love You (2009) plays the psychic Judge on her first day at work, Anderson. Her character reminded me something of Jessica Biel’s role in the recent Total Recall remake; strong and capable, although much more fun. Her ability to read minds doesn’t get played only when convenient and her character isn’t made to be as unstoppable as Dredd nor as whiny as Biel in Recall. A good balance.

Urban, who plays the titular role of Dredd is great. Many wondered how an actor who isn’t as well known would do under the main character of a movie that’s entire duration has him wearing a mask covering most of his head. In the comics, his helmet is never taken off. One could pose the idea that he’s meant to be a symbol of unstoppable law, and running down any opposition who would threaten that. Urban fits this well. The lower half of his face never seems to be compensating for the rest of him which can’t be seen. His one liners are fit into the scenes seamlessly, rather than forcing in a load of “cool” dialogue to show you he’s not messing around. They get the point across well enough through practical precision. Dredd’s superior tells him to train the rookie but not to go easy on her. “Throw her in the deep end,” he’s told, “see if she can swim.” “It’s all a deep end.” Dredd tells her. It just works.

It’d be a shame for me to completely leave out Headey’s character of Madelaine Madrigal, otherwise known as Ma-Ma. Her scarred, tattooed, dead-eyed stare is evenly matched with her ruthlessness she employs to run her gang. Many shots are used with a slow motion, high definition camera to illustrate how a drug sold by her gang slows down how time is perceived. This involves multiple shots of something as simple as Headey taking her arm out of the bathtub in slow motion that really let you feel how dead of a person she is. As she gives out orders over the intercom, you almost feel as though she doesn’t care if the tasks are carried out…only to beat and stab anyone who might not listen.

Dredd’s not a perfect film by a long shot, but it feels right. Mature audiences and fans of Sci-Fi action will appreciate the simplicity behind the story while not treating the audience as though they should only be impressed by slow motion and violence.

Grade: B

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2 Responses to “Movie Revew: DREDD”

  1. Orwell Says:

    I’m told that the old movie is about a rogue cop facing an out of control government. This one seems to go the opposite direction. If it glorifies the heavy hand of “justice” (on the spot executions??) and demonizes the free market (drugs [the black market is the only free market]) I’ll pass. We’ve been brainwashed enough.

    • Taylor Says:

      You can look at it that way, it’s open to speculation of course. I was saying something like that as I was watching. Wouldn’t want that kind of law enforcement as we have too many cops with a similar mindset already.
      But as far as the character goes, he only kills people who have indefinitely tried to kill him or someone else.

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