Dredd PosterThe first time Hollywood tried to bring Judge Dredd to the big screen, the script wound up getting radically changed and eventually morphed into RoboCop. The second time they succeeded in getting a film, but 1995’s version starring Sylvester Stallone had, shall we say, a mixed reception. While it had a certain cheesy charm, it wasn’t considered very good on the whole. In 2012, another attempt was made, this time with director Pete Travis at the helm, and Karl Urban under the helmet.

It’s a definite improvement. For one thing, no Rob Schneider.

Dredd, like the comics that inspired it, is set a few hundred years into the future. The entire population of the United States now resides in one gigantic metropolis on the east coast. The rest of the nation is a wasteland. People live in oversized skyscrapers where each floor is equivalent to a small town, and there are hundreds of floors. The Judges keep the peace, with extreme force if necessary. Dredd is assigned to assess a rookie for candidacy for a full Judge position. Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) is inexperienced but she has one advantage most candidates don’t: she’s a mutant, and she got one of the good mutations. Anderson is a psychic, able to sense the presence and read the minds of those around her — a handy ability for a Judge.

Anderson’s psychic talents and Dredd’s capable experience are put to the test when they are sent to investigate a triple homicide. When they arrive, a local drug czar puts the whole Megatower into lockdown, and initiates a manhunt against the Judges. What follows is an extremely violent game of cat and mouse.

The story may not be terribly complicated, but it doesn’t need to be. This is an action movie that knows what it is, and what it’s audience is looking for. It’s fast-paced, frenetic, and fun to watch. The setting allows for a sense of claustrophobia to creep into the movie, and with the Judges having no idea when the next wave of attack is going to come, the relentlessness of the assault puts a real sense of danger into it. The occasional use of the drug “slo mo” — which alters the user’s perceptions — allows for an artistic use of extreme slow motion for a few scenes without making it seem obnoxious or gratuitous.

Thirlby and Urban fill their roles capably as the green rookie and the jaded veteran. Incidentally, Urban does utter the trademark line “I am the law”, but his delivery is nowhere near as over-the-top as some of Stallone’s utterances. Lena Headley plays the drug czar Ma-Ma, and she plays the role with a certain quiet, barely restrained insanity. It’s rare for an action film to have a female villain, particularly a violent one, but Ma-Ma shows that it can work. There is no question at any point that she is the most dangerous individual in her organization.

If Dredd has a weakness, it’s that the characterization is fairly thin. Dredd is gruff. Anderson is tough but compassionate. Ma-Ma is psychotic. That’s about as far as any of it goes. But it makes up for this by succeeding on the points that it tries to achieve; as an action spectacle, it’s a very solid film.

Rating: 4 Stars

About Morgan R. Lewis

Fan of movies and other media
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18 Responses to Dredd

  1. le0pard13 says:

    It’s a good one, alright. It does share some elements of THE RAID REDEMPTION, but made for a fun, though brutal, trip.

  2. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Morgan. Pretty cool style to it all, but I do feel like the action was a bit weak. Maybe that’s just me, but something was definitely missing in that department.

  3. Scophi says:

    This is the third review I’ve read in as many days that gives Dredd good marks as an action flick. I was going to pass on this version because so many remakes have good special effects but are cold and empty. (Think Total Recall (2012)). But after your review I might give it a shot. I had a feeling this could be a good movie given the right director.

    • Heh. I haven’t seen “Total Remake” yet, but I’ve heard… and you’re right that it’s a common complaint with remakes, especially sci-fi ones.

      I’m not going to say that Dredd is an all-time great film or anything, but it’s definitely a decent one. If they are able to push through the sequel that the star and director are hoping for, I’ll be watching it.

  4. Why didn’t anyone see this in cinema!?

    • Because most filmgoers are split into one of two categories: Those who don’t know who Judge Dredd is, and those who only know him because of the Stallone movie. They needed to do a great marketing job here to get people in seats, and they barely even tried.

  5. Great review. You perfectly summed up my attitude to the film: ‘Gone With The Wind’ it ain’t but as an action film, it ticks all the right boxes.

  6. Chris says:

    Nice review. Loved this movie, really surprised me with just how legitimately great it was all around, so much so that I named it the best movie I saw last year. Good stuff. 🙂

  7. Tyson Carter says:

    My issue was I watched this within a few days of watching The Raid. Whilst being very similar (which is not a fault for Dredd as they started first but released later) The Raid for me was just a million times better overall. Still liked Dredd though, just not that much.

  8. Monkeyboy says:

    Good review. I actually prefer this to The Raid, which I found started to get a bit boring about two thirds of the way through! And I agree, “no Rob Schneider” is always a plus point!! 🙂

    • The inclusion of Rob Schneider in the first one still baffles me. I mean, yeah, I get that he wasn’t quite as notorious back then for bad films, but still…

      As for the Raid, like I said to a few guys above, I’m going to have to check that out soon.

  9. Another good review fort he film and by you, Morgan. I have to make the time to watch this one.

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