Dredd is directed by Pete Travis and is based on the 2000 AD comic strip Judge Dredd and the Judge Dredd character created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra. The film stars Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Wood Harris, and Lena Headey.
In 1995, Judge Dredd got his first film adaptation, with Sylvester Stallone in the title role. The result was a pretty terrible product, critics lambasting the movie's lack of faith towards its source material and Stallone's over-the-top performance. So for any and all hardcore Judge Dredd fans out there, the announcement of a reboot must have sounded like a gift from the heavens. The new Dredd would have nothing in common with the Stallone film, meaning screenwriter Alex Garland and director Pete Travis were giving the Judge Dredd character a clean slate.
Reboots get a lot of crap nowadays, but in this case where you are attempting to reboot something that somebody previously took a nasty diarrhea dump on, why would you disapprove an attempt to make it better? I am not at all familiar with the Judge Dredd source material. My understanding is that Judge Dredd resembles an antihero, living in a dystopian future and going about his business like an extra aggressive RoboCop. That is to say that the Judge Dredd character has promise, because the concept of a scientifically advanced police force combating criminals in a dystopian world has already been proven successful by RoboCop. That is not to say that Dredd is a total ripoff of RoboCop, more so that the two's core concepts are quite similar. The key difference is that Dredd is a lot more straightforward with what it wants to do, not being as over-the-top with its violence and not exactly in your face with its self-satire. Dredd doesn't have the strange news broadcasts that RoboCop contains, nor does it kill characters by having them get riddled with thousands of bullets. And for the record, I find the original RoboCop to be a darn good film that I enjoy a lot, despite some obvious flaws.
In Dredd, the United States has become a wasteland highly exposed to radiation, where people now live in crime-ridden city blocks. The only sense of law enforcement are the Judges, acting as judge, jury, and executioner all in one. In one of the city blocks known as Mega-City One, Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is assigned to evaluate a new recruit: Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a mutant who possesses psychic powers. Dredd and Anderson are sent to investigate a triple homicide that takes place at a 200-story tower block known as Peach Trees. The tower is controlled by a drug dealer named Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), who supplies a drug called Slo-Mo that slows a user's perception of time down to one percent of normal perception. Ma-Ma learns of the Judges' arrival, leading to her and her clan taking control of the tower's security system. Ma-Ma has the tower sealed and orders for Dredd and Anderson to be killed. Unable to leave and unable to summon backup, Dredd and Anderson have no choice but to fight their way to the top of the tower.
- Dredd is pretty nasty when it comes to violence; the bloody and graphic mayhem is not at all for the squeamish. The thing is, Dredd comes with a sense of style, relying on the likes of slow-motion shots and a saturated color scheme to make its action a lot more dazzling and to give certain death scenes more impact. The effects utilized in the film I'm sure look quite eye-popping if viewed in 3D, but as someone who is anti-3D, I passed on the chance on seeing the effects the way they were probably meant to be seen. Anyway, several bursts of violence are displayed like someone getting the ultimate high while on a narcotics-driven hallucination, bullets ripping through human skin and blood splattering everywhere in a slow-motion fashion that suggests an almost fetish-like satisfaction from watching bad people get killed. To put it differently, it's as if the effects are Pete Travis' way of making the violence "sexy", because to him, in this futuristic version of Earth, there is nothing more arousing than watching criminals get the axe. Weird, yes, but still stylish.
- The fight to the tower top sequence is the majority of the movie, and with no other kind of plot diversion, it's easy to see that Dredd is pretty damn shallow. Every scene in its 95 minutes feels necessary, and the movie wastes absolutely no time in setting up its central plotline. With the vast majority of the movie being Dredd and Anderson sneaking their way through the tower and fighting off hoards of thugs, the movie makes for a fast-paced 95 minutes. I would have appreciated seeing a tad bit more of the kind of world the Judges work in, especially because Travis has announced there would not be a sequel. So we have to live with what we got, which is an hour and a half of stylish sci-fi action, despite there being room for theme exploration.
The most you could talk about in Dredd is everything regarding its effects and how it takes a more practical approach to being bloody and graphic. The use of slow-motion and the production design make for some good conversation, though the shallow plotting leaves a lot more to be desired. Karl Urban shows to be a good fit for the role of Dredd, even though we never see any of Urban's face above his mouth. Dredd's character relies on Urban having a dead-serious attitude, but that's not to say the movie is humorless. Dredd has a very dry sense of humor, and it never gets in the way of the action. While it won't be the most inspiring or entertaining sci-fi action film you'll ever see, Dredd makes for 95 minutes of solid amusement. Fans have been begging for a sequel for forever, and even though Travis has stated there would be no sequel, there are plenty of pieces in place for a sequel, should one ever surface.
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