The idea of a new Judge Dredd movie was very promising back in 2012, because as far I knew, the last movie based on the comic book character apparently must have been so bad that they’ll almost never show it on TV (at least in the UK). That being said, Dredd is a very different kind of comic book adaptation, with none of the idiotic pretensions you’ll find in Marvel of DC. Instead, it’s a straightforward, focused, and hard-hitting action film, and the end result is a film so outstanding that 152,000 fans want a TV show based on it.
The story is based loosely on the 2000 A.D. comic strip, but a few new characters and concepts. At the very beginning and end of the film, Dredd himself narrates everything you need to know about the story, which plays out in a giant concrete metropolis riddled with crime, with the only force of order being the Judges, who act as judge, jury and executioner. In the film, Dredd accompanies a new recruit with psychic abilities on a homocide case in a 200-storey apartment building, and are forced to deal with the ruling drug lord Ma-Ma.
Clocking in at only 95 minutes, the film is refreshingly straightforward, with a plot that moves at a fast and violent pace. The premise is a bit like the original Die Hard film, except Dredd uses this to illustrate just how big of a criminal problem exists in the world that Judge Dredd inhabits. As the story is told from the perspective of Judge Dredd, the film also had the opportunity to delve into Dredd’s character, but it seems to me that Dredd does the total opposite of what a character should do in a film. Normally in a work of fiction, you have characters how grow and develop over the course of the story, but Dredd doesn’t to do that. Dredd’s character remains static for the whole film.
However, thanks to Karl Urban’s solid performance as Dredd, this is turned into an advantage rather than a liability. In fact, Urban’s performance perfectly conveys the kind of character Judge Dredd should be, a hard-edged, uncompromising law enforcer that no criminal wants to mess with. Olivia Thirlby also performs well as the new recruit. At times, she seems quite cold in terms of personality, but she’s an engaging character, and one with everything to prove. Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey also shines in the film, but I was kind of disappointed at the fact that she’s a pretty aloof antagonist, distant from her surroundings.
The world of Dredd immediately comes across as a different kind of futuristic setting. It presents a gritty, down-to-earth vision of the future, but a lot of it resembles a more contemporary setting. I guess the producers weren’t interesting in something too far-fetched, and to their credit, the world of Judge Drudd packs quite a visual punch. The special effects are also worth mentioning as well. Certain points of the story run in slow motion, perhaps to illustrate the effects of the fictional Slo-Mo drug, a plot device within the film. This tends to give those scenes a dreamlike quality that starkly contrasts the rest of the film.
If the film is notable for anything, its the copious level of violence on display. Dredd is so violent it puts some of the 80’s action films to shame, and it’s often taken to ridiculous levels (with some characters getting skinned by the film’s villain before being dropped off the top of a high-rise building). It’s certainly an intense film, but while the violence can be a bit much for some, I think it’s another way of illustrating the kind of world the film is set in, and Dredd as a character. It certainly delivers one hell of an action-packed experience.
All in all, I’d say this film was the perfect way to introduce Judge Dredd to a newer generation of cinemagoers, as well as it being an outstanding action film in general. With talk of a Judge Dredd TV series going around, I’d say Dredd makes an excellent candidate for a TV series, since there’s still a lot that the film could have expanded on, but regardless, Dredd is an amazing action film on its own.
- Score: 85%
- Grade: A