Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Judge. Jury. Executioner. Those are the words that define the job of a Judge from the Hall of Justice in the screwed up future metropolis of Mega-City One. Enter Judge Dredd (Karl Urban). Famed and feared for his relentless pursuit of justice, Dredd is tasked with evaluating rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) through her. Anderson though, isn't any ordinary Judge.
Raised an orphan, she was adopted by the Hall and trained to become a Judge. Though she narrowly failed her tests, she's been given a second chance because she possesses psychic powers, a pretty rare ability in this world. Unfortunately, Anderson chooses a homicide case in the “Peach Trees” slum block for her field exam... unknowingly stepping onto the turf of Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her gang. The block serves as the gang's hub to manufacture and distribute a drug, “Slo-Mo”, which does exactly what its name suggests... slow down time for the user. When the two Judges prove to be too much of a meddling force, Ma-Ma lock downs the block... forcing the two Judges to take on 200 levels of pure Mega-City scum.
Olivia Thrilby as Judge Anderson
‘Dredd’ has an incredible visual style. Shot in 3D using high speed digital cameras, the film often delves into a rather breath-taking mix of multi-dimensional blood splattering violence and slow motion when the drugs are involved... lending the movie a very distinct and unique visual look. Yes, if you took that last statement in, you'd realize that ‘Dredd’ is in fact, a pretty violent movie. Violent in a cartoony stylized way, not in a graphic machete cutting arms off manner... but definitely deserving of a hard R rating.
Depending on your tolerance for graphic violence, it may or may not bother on mindless violence. With all that being said, the violence does drive home the point that Mega-City One is a crime-riddled society within a post-apocalyptic world. The only significant weakness of ‘Dredd’ would be its lack of a major action set piece in the film... but it more than makes up for it with its constant barrage of shoot outs and explosions throughout Dredd and Anderson's ascent to the 200th storey. Volume sure makes a difference here.
All the bells and whistles where the film's special effects and technologies are all good, but perhaps where ‘Dredd’ truly excels is where the previous film completely failed. Older and slightly more grizzled movie goers will no doubt remember the 1995 movie, ‘Judge Dredd’ where Sylvester Stallone committed the cardinal sin of being seen without Dredd's helmet. And while it may seem like only a surface mistake, the problems with Sly's portrayal run much deeper than that.
Stallone's Dredd was portrayed as almost too heroic. In ‘Dredd’, fans finally get the faithful portrayal of Judge Dredd they've been waiting for all along. Besides not ever being seen without his helmet on, Karl Urban's performance correctly captures the essence of the character. Dredd isn't a hero. Instead, he's just a man doing his part in an insane world where laws are broken by the minute. To enforce the law, he draws a clear line between the black and the white.
Urban emotes with just his chin visible
If you thought Tom Hardy's performance as Bane earlier this year was pretty impressive for a guy in a mask, Urban emotes with just his chin visible. The result is a mix of scowls, grunts, deadpan one liners and self-satirizing humour with one constant – it's incredibly badass all throughout the entirety of the film. Dredd is almost like an “anti-character” - he doesn't change much at all, Judge Anderson serves as the emotional centre of the film and as a great counterpoint towards Dredd. Unlike Dredd, Anderson operates in the grey area. She hesitates to enforce the law, as being psychic lets her know the other side of the story. It's a stark contrast between the two, and it works very well as Dredd's blunt humour and Anderson's vulnerability mesh together very well on screen.
In an era filled with comic book movie adaptations, ‘Dredd’ is a refreshing breath of air. Violent and gritty, this film has shown that it's entirely possible to make a good comic book movie with a “R” rating and that alone is a triumph in faithfulness in itself. Armed with a sombre and mature tone, ‘Dredd’ will transport you to a future (which looks very good) where crime doesn't lend itself to a good negotiating position.
Dexian or just Dex if you have an inability to pronounce Chinese names, is a fervent film lover who's known to read up on the most inane pieces of cinema trivia just so he has something to talk about when he's drunk. When he's not watching something, he can be found reading other useless Wikipedia articles on things like Nebulaphobia.