Review: Dredd

With no capes, no spandex, and no superpowers 2012’s Dredd hits the ground running and never looks back. The British comic book based movie provides a proper telling of Judge Dredd who once graced the silver screen back in 1995. I won’t go too much into that version, but needless to say it was horrendous. Fast forward to 2012 and we get to see the Judge Dredd universe in a whole new light. I was highly skeptical of this movie when I heard its announcement. I remember laughing out loud at the thought of this remake. It turns out that not only was it worth my time, but it exceeded my wildest expectations. Dredd is a beautifully, yet absolutely brutal, view of the future. In this dystopian future we are dropped face first into Mega-City One. The name barely exemplifies its vastness. We’re told Mega-City One stretches from Washington D.C. to Boston, and we get some small glimpses at its scale. However, we don’t get to spend too much time hanging out in Mega-City One as the movie moves quickly to inside a housing complex called ‘Peach Trees.’ On our way to our destination we get a great look at the absolute grittiest landscapes I have seen in this year’s movies, sans Beasts of the Southern Wild. The violence really stands out in Dredd. Never so over the top that we get something like Punisher: Warzone, but rather reminiscent of Paul Verhoeven’s original Robocop. The brutality in the first few minutes sets the tone before we can even find out what the hell is going on; the ride has begun. When the killing slows for a minute we get to meet the main reason why we are all here, Judge Dredd. Only called Dredd in this movie (I’m sure this is to distance itself from the 1995 version), Karl Urban is a no nonsense law man who is given the ability to be judge, jury, and executioner in this hellish environment in which he not only lives, but thrives!

Dredd is given the opportunity to access a rookie judge named Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) and give her a pass or fail grade during a field test. Anderson is more than meets the eye and plays very well against Dredd's cold and calculating demeanor. Karl Urban brings the right level of strong silent type to the roll. There isn't much in the way of character exploration for him, but this is purposeful. Dredd is not explored in any real manner until much later in the comics, so there is no need to rush that here. When the two judges are sent to answer a call about some deaths in the ‘Peach Trees’ housing complex the movie turns up the action to level 10 and barely drops off.

‘Peach Trees’ is completely run by a drug lord named Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) who dispenses her own form of justice to insubordinates as she sees fit. When Ma-Ma finds out about the two judges being in her building she seals the building and demands that they be killed. The rest of the movie is an endurance race for Dredd and Anderson to make it to Ma-Ma and dole out some judgement. Slo-Mo, the name of the narcotic sold by Ma-Ma, is used to develop some absolutely fantastic scenes. The drug causes its users to see the world at 1% of normal speed. So you get scenes of beautifully shot slow motion with extremely vibrant colors; an excellent contrast the the gritty normal world. Even when people are being shot in the face, you can’t help but notice the beauty in which they are meeting their maker.

At the end of the day, Dredd is just pure fun. I really have no complaints except there was a good 10 minutes were things slowed down a bit, but after that the shooting began again and we were off to the races. All the acting was serviceable and nobody had any major stand out performances. I thought Lena Headey could have been used a little bit more. She was great in the scenes she got, but to be a truly fleshed out villain I wanted more from her. If you want a fun action movie that reminds you of the golden age of action movies (1980s) then Dredd is your best bet. This isn’t a bunch of old action stars getting together to try and recapture some sort of magic. Rather this is a new team making one of the best action movies we have seen in awhile. I honestly look forward to a Dredd sequel sooner rather than later.

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