Dredd has hit Irish shores early. Can Urban and co redeem Judge Joseph Dredd, and help us forget about Stallone’s big budget misfire of ’95.
In a dystopian future, Mega City One is a vast grim metropolis, with 200 story mega-blocks that serve as vertical slums. Judges serve as judge, jury and executioner in this world. Ma-Ma is the drug king pin behind the new drug Slo-Mo, which does what it says on the tin, and she runs a full Mega-Block. Judge Dredd, along with psychic trainee judge Anderson, finds themselves in this tower, and must fight to the top to take out Ma-Ma. And this is just one day in the life of Dredd.
THERE WAS NO OTHER DREDD MOVIE!
First off… Forget the Dredd-ful 1995 Stallone movie. That movie is a big budget Versace designed mess, and bears little resemblance to the 2000AD comic. This is not that movie. This is a dirty and grim world. And it is violent. Incredibly violent. And the helmet stays on.
Within the first 5 minutes the world is swiftly and effectively established. This world is a filthy, grey and grim world. It is clearly the future, but things are old and broken. Then Dredd comes on screen, and he is the law. Karl Urban is immediately perfect, fitting the suit and character perfectly. He gets the voice, body language, trademark grimace and everything just right. The voice is not too grumbly, but it carries the gravitas Dredd would have. The iconic helmet and suit looks awesome; functional and intimidating.
GETTING DREDD RIGHT
Then the action kicks in. It begins with a pretty intense road chase through this metal and litter strewn city. The second Dredd hits the “Hot Shot” you realise that this movie is going to be incredibly violent, and not in a cheesy way. As it should be. Throw in the super slow motion gun fights, and you quickly realise that this movie isn’t afraid to shoot a guy in the jaw in graphic slow motion. The set pieces throughout are very impressive, and are held together by a simple, but effective story.
This movie is about getting Dredd right. Granted, the plot (which is essentially the same as The Raid: Redemption), characters and their motivations are all straight forward. And with the exception of Thirlby’s nice performance as Anderson, there is little in the way of character development for anyone. But this movie does a great job of putting Judge Dredd, and Mega-City One, on the big screen. While the comic has some more futuristic sci-fi elements, this movie, by keeping the action contained to one building, keeps the budget low. It pares the scope down to the bare essentials: Dredd; Guns; Bad guys; Blood. And that is a particular strength of this movie. Efficiency in storytelling. Unlike Stalone’s 95 folly, this movie is taut and uncompromising… like the title character.
The foundations of this movie are Urban and Garland. Director Travis has a great visual look, and uses the 3D well. He manages the action brilliantly, and the slo-mo scenes are very cool. Some of the shots and angles are very similar to a comic book panel. But it always feels like it’s Garland’s script and vision that drives and shapes the movie. And Urban embodies Dredd, conveying so much while expressing so little. Headey’s Ma-Ma is also worth mentioning, she brings a quiet and unsettling power to the part.
So… Even without knowing anything about the comic character, this is a really good action movie, with an effective story and uber-violence. But if you do know of Dredd, this is Batman Begins to Stallone’s Batman & Robin. This movie is definitely worth seeing.