The future America is an irradiated waste land. On its East Coast, running from Boston to Washington DC, lies Mega City One - a vast, violent metropolis where criminals rule the chaotic streets. The only force of order lies with the urban cops called "Judges" who possess the combined powers of judge, jury and instant executioner. Known and feared throughout the city, Dredd (Karl Urban) is the ultimate Judge, challenged with ridding the city of its latest scourge - a dangerous drug epidemic that has users of "Slo-Mo" experiencing reality at a fraction of its normal speed.
Sylvester Stallone played camp to the fullest in Judge Dredd (1985), also starring Armond Assante and Diane Lane. The re-boot of the series, simply titled Dredd, gives Karl Urban a shot at making the often laughed at character of Judge Dredd, thanks to Stallone, a serious contender in the world of comic book action hero's adapted for the screen. Doing away with any backstory to the man Dredd, and focusing only on his fight against the drug lord Ma-ma (Lena Headey) and his assessment of rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), Dredd is serious business. So serious in fact that Dredd never removes his helmet, leaving his jaw the only means of communicating any form of emotion. Keith Urban's jawline is strong enough to act the part considering Dredd is not given much range to have to work with. Dredd is not a movie focused on the performances of its actors, it simply wants to be exceedingly violent and remain one-note throughout. The expectation that maybe, just maybe, civilians might be considered amongst the violence that erupts between Dredd and Ma-Ma is inconceivable. Dredd's world is depressingly dark and violent and innocence was lost long ago. This is possibly the one crowning achievement in the entire film, Dredd does not elicit sympathy from the viewer, nor does it apologize for the brutality at which it operates. The Judge's exist to enforce the law, doing so at will upon their own judgement. A death sentence is common, and completed immediately.
The trouble with Dredd is the lack of creativity, and absence of a humanized character in its lead. Dredd is a figurehead for all Judges, he is not his own man. The rookie Anderson and drug lord Ma-ma are the two characters given a backstory, elements of their past reflect who they have become today and why they desire to be a Judge or rule the population through illegal means, respective to their characters of course. Because Dredd is not a man to be feared, aside from him simply being seen as a Judge to the criminals the stakes are not raised when Ma-ma orders him and Anderson to be killed by the inhabitants of the Peach Trees block. Dredd could be anyone, the trophy that comes with his head is just that of any other Judge. The criminals do not care what Judge they are trying to kill just as the audience does not care that Dredd is the one being hunted, and hunting Ma-ma. The action may be present, with the expected gun fights, explosions, and trickery of CG effects and 3D but the story needs more to it than a lead character who defers to his rookie Judge every time a decision needs to be made on how to approach their situation. The situation is that they are both trapped inside the Peach Trees building, all 200 floors being ruled by Ma-ma, and are being hunted down by every low-life who lives in this slum. Getting out is not an option as the building has been locked down into "war mode" by Ma-ma's computer genius. Thanks to the lockdown of the building all of the action takes place on various floors nd the need for a constant stream of creativity essential to keep the viewer's attention. It is here that Dredd does not succeed.
As the assault on Dredd and Anderson erupts, and continues for the greater part of the entire film, the tediousness of the situation grows. The generic action sequences hold little thrill leaving the viewer with a predictable storyline that a grandiose supply of blood splatter and slow motion effects cannot salvage. More creativity in the choreography of combat scenes, and creating an actual threat would have made Dredd a violence filled gloriously fun time at the movies, 3D effects included. Instead it is a duplication of better action films that have taken place in confined spaces that does not offer any more for a viewer than the occasional chuckle worthy death sequence that is disgusting to watch and justifiably enjoyable all the same.
The most disappointing moment for Dredd
viewers comes at the end. The predictability of the ending matters not, it is the climactic showdown that is lacking any form of originality. Even that is acceptable, as long as the pay-off scores, but it does not. A quick cut away from what could have been an epic death sequence cheats the viewer out of experiencing the level of gore and innovative killing Dredd
aspires to maintain throughout the film. You are crushed by the fact that what you want to witness happen to Ma-Ma does not, leaving you wishing the filmmakers had had a more adept knowledge as to what the audience member paying to see a film such as Dredd
would want--that being a cheer worthy mess of blood and bones splattered on the screen.
While the ending fails to please the rest of the film tries very hard to do just that, with effort but not any panache. Earlier this year a fantastic film very similar to Dredd
was released, The Raid: Redemption
. The being locked in a building scenario is similar in both movies, and for a viewer who has seen The Raid
the expectations run high as to what inventive action sequences, combat fighting, fast-paced thrills, and the like can be done even in a confined space. Dredd
is not inventive with its action sequences; everything here has been done before, even if it was with less blood, less slow motion effects, and sans 3D. The action comes not at a frenetic pace but slow and deliberate, far too methodical and without any element of surprise. Dredd
's action sequences are far too generic; mediocre in fact.
The action in Dredd
is not for those afraid to see blood, as there is plenty of it--possibly the only real achievement that can be drawn from the action sequences. The slow motion effect used continually to mimic the characters reactions while on the drug SLO-MO as they are attacked by Dredd and Anderson does make for some interesting visuals. Flesh ripples from a bomb's blast as a bullet enters a man's head, the detail of the blood splattering out given great care in slow motion and thanks to the 3D visual effects. To say it is not a fun sequence to watch would be shameful. These moments do not make up for the pacing issues, and the neglect to add an element of suspense and thrill to the action overall. Dredd
is a predictable film, and the action does not save it but merely hinders it even further into being just above acceptable.
When all else fails there is one undeniably perfectly executed element in Dredd: the drug SLO-MO. While not trying to sound as if condoning drug use the scenes where SLO-MO is taken, when time slows down and the erotic tension is built in the air around the drug user it is impossible to not imagine the feeling as being the best ever created. SLO-MO creates an atmosphere for the user that is euphoric, a sedated place of quiet and peace. It is no wonder the drug is incredibly popular, especially in a world such as Dredd's where hell appears to have taken over earth. Sympathizing with SLO-MO users may occur while watching Dredd. It is the Prozac of the future, Soma re-imagined, and the inhabitants of Mega City One desperately need something to ease the pain of their existence.
Action, Thriller, Science Fiction
September 21, 2012