Are you tired of the Marvel vs. DC films and want to try out something fresh in the comic-book-movie genre? Check out 2012’s Dredd. No, really. Go out and buy this movie, or see if it’s on Netflix. Don’t worry; it’s nothing like the 1995 Judge Dredd film starring Sylvester Stallone. This one is actually awesome. It’s a shame that more people can’t appreciate Dredd and give it the love it deserves. I’m upset that it’s three years later and we’re nowhere near getting a sequel for this film as we are to getting Half-Life 3.
You may be wondering why I’m vehemently defending this film. If you watched it, and you know how to appreciate dark thriller/action films, then you’d understand. Dredd isn’t a movie that revolves around saving the damsel in distress, fighting giant monsters wanting to take over the world, or Chris Hemsworth‘s abs. It’s an underrated and under-appreciated adaptation of a gritty series that delves into the complex concept of “justice”. (spoilers ahead!)
The story of Judge Dredd takes place within a post-apocalyptic world where law enforcement personnel called “Judges” patrol the streets and exact justice as they see fit. Rather than going through the traditional justice system involving lawyers, prosecution, court dates, and such, the Judges are entrusted with the responsibility of acting as police, judge, jury, and executioner. If they see a crime being perpetrated, they have the ability to carry out whatever punishment they see fit, even if it means death.
Karl Urban portrays the titular Dredd, a stoic veteran Judge who is tasked with training rookie Anderson on her first day on the force. Unfortunately for Anderson, the Judges’ first call together involves fighting through a gang-infested, drug-ridden slum-town and taking down a ruthless drug-lord named Ma-Ma.
Prior to this film, the only place I’ve ever seen Urban act was in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers as Eomer. However, it’s not like we saw much of his acting abilities in this role since he was such a minor character. In Dredd, he gets a chance to demonstrate his ability to convey a range of expressions and emotions while having half of his face covered. The character of Judge Dredd never takes off his mask in the comics, symbolizing him never “taking off” his concept of justice. I’m fascinated by Urban’s performance and how he captures the essence of the character perfectly. You never see him without a scowl, but hidden behind his frown, you can find a million-and-one different emotions. Instead, he relies on his tone of voice, subtle movements, and language choices to get his message across. That’s true acting talent.
Olivia Thirlby‘s Judge Anderson deserves credit as well. Anderson has the ability to read and manipulate people’s minds, making her a vital asset to the force, though Dredd is a bit hesitant about working with her. The funny thing is that Anderson is a little tougher than Dredd himself. She refuses to wear her helmet throughout the movie, claiming that it impedes her mind-reading abilities. She also saves Dredd when he’s about to be killed towards the end of the film. And let’s not forget that she actually breaks herself out of Ma-Ma’s imprisonment while her hands are cuffed behind her back half the time. She is to Dredd what Hit-Girl was to Kick-Ass (okay, maybe not to those lengths, but you get what I mean).
Finally, we have Lena Headey as the infamous Ma-Ma, a former prostitute who climbed the ranks of the criminal underworld and became the leader of an entire clan of ruthless killers. Her mission throughout the film is to stop Dredd and Anderson from finding out about her secret drug-manufacturing operation. She employs the help of various allied gang members, an over-sized gatling gun, and a squad of corrupt Judges to assist in her venture, showing us what kind of villain she is and what resources she’ll utilize to accomplish her goals. During her pursuit of killing the Judges, she slaughters countless innocent bystanders who get in her way. She even puts out an announcement to the entire city stating that anyone getting in her way will be killed along with the next generation of their family.
Dredd is awesome for a variety of reasons aside from the great characters. My favorite theme of the film is the concept of “Slo-Mo”, a fictional drug that makes the user feel as if time is slowed down. Ma-Ma’s clan is the head of Slo-Mo manufacturing for the city, and we see multiple incidents of the drug being used during the movie. Every time someone takes a hit, the entire film goes into a trippy, slow-motion sequence with eerie music and multicolor lights added to enhance the hallucinatory illusions. It’s a clever filming technique that gives the audience a sense of what the drug must feel like and how it affects its users. My only complaint is that it can be a little tedious watching these scenes since the entire movie slows down to watch them occur. At certain points, I have to fast-forward a minute or two to get past the Slo-Mo sequence.
The entire movie is too complex to thoroughly analyze in such a short review. It has action, it has drama, it has the classic good vs. evil vibe going on, and then some. The only thing it’s really missing is romance, and you know what? I’m perfectly fine with that. We don’t need a forced romance in every single film. Sometimes it doesn’t happen. Just because there’s a man and woman on screen doesn’t mean there has to be a forced connection. Case in point: Guardians of the Galaxy. But I digress…
Most of the criticism I’ve seen towards this movie is that it’s too similar to The Raid. Really, the only concept that the two have in common is the setting of the main heroes fighting their way through a gang-ridden building. Other than that, they are two fairly different movies. It’s also worth mentioning that Dredd was planned and filmed first, so if anything, it’s more likely that The Raid did some of the borrowing. Overall, I loved both movies for separate reasons. Anyone who’s too busy trying to protest about one being better than the other needs to sort out their priorities. News flash: you can like more than one movie.
If you haven’t seen this movie yet, do it now. Go to the store and pick it up in the bargain bin. I guarantee it can’t be more than ten dollars for the DVD. While you’re at it, pick up a few issues of the comics as well. The entire Judge Dredd storyline is filled with more rich characters, gritty plots, and thought-provoking themes that will blow your mind like a High-Ex bullet from Dredd’s Lawgiver pistol.
Have you seen Dredd yet? What did you think about it? Hit us up in the comments or on Twitter!