I Saw A Film Today… Dredd

I don’t remember much about the 1995 Judge Dredd film adaptation. This is probably a good things since when I flip through clips on Youtube from said film, it’s not good. It looks like a terrible Joel Schumacher knock-off with Stallone going full ham, as he has a tendency of doing. And I really don’t remember much about the Judge Dredd comics from 200o A.D., which just for clarity is a British publication. This may explain why both the Stallone film and this recent re-imagining simply titled Dredd hasn’t fared well with American audiences. Which is a shame in the case of this film.

In the apocalyptic ruins of what was once America (now known as Cursed Earth) there lies Mega City-One, an urban area that spans the entire eastern seaboard. In the walls of the vast and violent city lives 800 million people. The only thing keeping order: Judges, who are police officers also acting as judges, including serving out death sentences. And no Judge is more known or feared than Judge Dredd (Karl Urban).

Because of his status, Dredd is asked by the Chief Judge (Rakie Ayola) to run the assignment of a potential rookie with psychic abilities named Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) to see if she’s “got the stuff”. Dredd Takes her to the scene of a triple homicide at a grimy 200 story apartment complex called Peach Trees, which is the home of gang leader Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) whose big export is a new drug called Slo-mo.

While escorting a suspect out of Peach Trees, the building suddenly goes on lock down, locking the two judges and the residents inside the building. Over the intercom comes simple instructions from Ma-Ma: Kill the Judges, the lock down on the block is over. Time for the Judges to lay down some law and bullet casings if they want to make it out of Peach Trees alive.

Dredd is a high-octane paced film that both entertains and maintains a simple enough story to keep the film lively. It’s a straight forward shoot-em-up with a bit of 80’s flair, in a good way.  It is also a visual spectacle one should behold, surprisingly, in 3-D. Director Pete Travis somehow integrates scenes of a candy-coated, drug-induced euphoric world with a grimy and believable post apocalyptic world almost entirely set in an apartment complex in the slums of Mega City-One.

Even graphic spurts of blood are oddly mesmerizing and, for lack of a better word, pretty. Seeing a woman’s head explode into a gush of crimson as she slams face first into the pavement is disgusting yet somehow beautiful. And all this is projected for you in impressive stereoscopic photography on level with another film from earlier this year, Prometheus.

Another aspect this film has going for it is it’s one of the first films I’ve seen in a long time that isn’t saturated with advertisements. Any advertising in this film was for fake products. There are no golden arches in Peach Trees. None of the thugs are wearing Beats by Dre headphones around their neck as they try to mow the judges down. None of the residents were Instagraming on their iPhones. Actually, I don’t remember more than once seeing a cell phone. Not a bad future, eh?

Karl Urban inhibits everything I’d expect out of a real world Dredd. Urban has always had a no none-sense demeanor surrounding him and he fully utilizes it here. His low growl, the swagger he carries as he confidently walks down a dangerous hallway, and his unrelenting idea of justice all culminate into the Dredd that fans deserve. Olivia Thirlby, plucked out of near obscurity, surprisingly proves to be an impressive action star. Her intensity and uncertainty exudes off the screen. I’m glad this talented young actress is back in the limelight. As for the rest of the cast, there is not much to be noteworthy of. Lena Headey does terrible things but does not have a real terrifying presence, as a villain should.

It’s a real shame that there is such a slim chance of a Dredd 2. The film just hasn’t caught the attention of the American audience for whatever reason. Is it because of the R-rating, forcing teen hoodlums to sneak into the film while dealing out cash to other films? Is it the 3-D, which truly is a luxury for most fans? Maybe it’s the unfamiliarity of the 2000 A.D. comic itself. Whatever the reason, it’s a shame.

Verdict: See it!

*Rated R for strong bloody violence, language, drug use, and some sexual content. 98 minutes.

**Poster by unknown.

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