Dredd is one of those movies that takes things you’ve seen before and puts them together in a generally satisfying way. The film feels influenced by Escape From New York, has all the chunkiness of Robocop, and features a plot eerily similar to The Raid. On top of these similarities, the film can’t help but exploit its fair share of action movie clichés in order to get its work done. Therefore, Dredd isn’t necessarily a strikingly original or exhilarating movie, but it is solid at what it does and generally entertaining to behold.
The most impressive thing is that, although the film does have some particularly flashy sequences, Dredd gets by without having to ever “pull out all the stops”. Instead, the film prefers to grind out the action and violence one scene at a time. Unlike your typical Hollywood action-bonanza these days, Dredd doesn’t rely on overly-abundant special effects and superheroes slugging it out to generate thrills. This is a movie that feels decidedly old-school, like what the original Judge Dredd film should have been. It’s a refreshing take on a genre that is always pushing for bigger and better.
Unlike that original 1995 debacle, this film is good enough to keep fans of the comic happy but probably not revolutionary enough to win over many new ones. The truth be told, the movie is rather basic and one-dimensional. Granted, what it does in that one dimension is very good, but those people looking for more than guns and gore will not really find it here. The main character never shows his face and also never really seems human, and although he’s easy to root for, this is just basic entertainment. Dredd won’t inspire or move you, but it does keep your attention.
Story: In the future, America is a giant radiated wasteland, so everyone lives in one gigantic city. Because it is so populated, this city is also very violent. To keep the peace, an agency of Judges patrols the streets. They are the police, judge and executioner all-in-one. Judge Dredd is the ultimate veteran of this force, and comes upon a smuggling ring dealing a drug called “slo-mo”, which makes users perceive time very slowly. When he is assigned a rookie Judge to show the ropes to, he continues his investigation, leading to a sinister gang leader called Ma Ma. They become trapped in a gigantic residential complex. Will the rookie have what it takes to help the duo make it out alive, or is Dredd in for more than he can handle?….Okay (6.1/10)
Acting: Karl Urban portrays the titular character, and for what he has to work with, he does a fairly good job. His performance mirrors that of Stallone’s from the original film, but that is what is needed and how the character was written. Olivia Thirlby seems out-of-place as the young rookie, but by the end of the film she shows her grit and earns her place in such a grim film. Lena Headey plays Ma Ma with a sadistic twist and makes a solid, if unconventional, antagonist. The rest of the cast tends to be more robotic than human, but since there aren’t really any good characters anyway, it doesn’t matter. Okay (6.4/10)
Direction: Pete Travis (Vantage Point) manages to craft an exciting and visually thrilling action piece, despite the lack of scope and rather limited perspective available. While the special effects do get the job done, and are obviously on a budget, Travis makes the best of them. In fact, he manages to make the film feel like it jumped out of a comic book. It’s stylized and creative in setting up action pieces, but not overly so. Travis keeps the movie moving forward at a steady pace, and even when there isn’t much of a climax, the film still manages to maintain sufficient excitement throughout. Good (7.6/10)
Special Effects: Overall, the film’s production and cinematography give it a B-movie feel. The special effects don’t make the film look all that realistic, but the flip-side is that this helps with the comic-book feel. This trend continues once the gunfights start and the blood begins splattering. The film trades realism for a little bit of style. Although slow-motion fight sequences have since become passé in modern action films, this one uses that technique to its advantage. It also fits into the story with the “slo-mo” drug. Overall, Dredd is a traditional action movie, not unlike something coming out of the 1990’s, but with the dedication and appreciation of a modern comic book film. Good (8.8/10)
Rating: (7.2/10) = C (Average)
· What’s Good: A solid old-fashioned pound-and-ground action flick, with gunfights and one-liners galore. It is stylized to be in line with today’s popular comic-book infatuation, having good direction and a likeable cast.
· What’s Bad: Sometimes the movie’s style and structure backfires, making it feel dated. The climax really isn’t much to speak of and there’s not much storytelling or characterization.
Verdict: A refreshing but unoriginal take on the comic book movie.