There’s no need for a North American remake of The Raid: Redemption, as it’s already here in the form of Dredd – and it’s executed beautifully. Judge Dredd is a famous comic book character who lives in a world that just begs to be seen on the silver screen; however, the closest we’d gotten to it until now is the 1995 Sylvester Stallone version that was guilty of missing more than a few marks. In this reboot, writer Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine) delivers a story much closer to the source material, and what we end up with is one of the best pure action movies of the year.
The film takes place in a dystopian future, where the America is a wasteland, and one of the only place that finds haven from the irradiated desert that surrounds it is Mega City One – a giant walled off city that runs from Boston to Washington D.C. Inside these walls crime runs rampant and the only law enforcement comes in the form of officers called “Judges”. Judges are given the power of judge, jury and executioner, and have the ability to carry out sentencing on the spot which, let’s face it, is a pretty badass card to be able to play when in the right hands. Dredd is one of the most revered judges on the force, and right from the opening minutes of the film, he’s impossible not to like.
Karl Urban has had a couple of shots at the leading role in blockbuster movies, with one of the most notable being the film adaptation of the video game Doom, which didn’t fare so well. This time, however, Urban is perfect. Beyond perfect even. Urban is Dredd. Now granted, we never see his face (that’s one of the characters trademarks), and he doesn’t have to flex his acting chops heavily at any point; however, Dredd is just pure, unwavering, machismo in a helmet with a kickass gun – and it’s Urban’s steadfast appearance and confident delivery that helps sell him as that to the audience.
Early on Dredd is teamed up with a rookie named Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who failed the test to become a judge, yet was given the go-ahead for field testing due to her having a special ability that the higher ups believe will help the force out. While reluctant, Dredd agrees to take her on for assessment, and the two head out to check on a reported triple homicide in The Peach Tree Block (building) that’s run by a ruthless drug lord – and all around sadistic killer – called Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). Though when the two Judges take a prisoner that Ma-Ma is afraid will talk, she locks down the entire building and warns those inside that she won’t open it back up until the judges are dead.
The action in this movie is intense, and it’s only elevated by the slick idea to include a unique drug into the film and have it play a part in a handful of action sequences. That drug is called “Slo-Mo” and what it does is slow down the brain so it believes things are happening at 1% their actual speed. This leads to some awesome highly-stylized kill shots as we watch addicts being taken out by Dredd get blown apart by bullets in ultra-slow motion. Yes, this film definitely earns its R-rating, and action junkies will definitely get their fix. On a more subdued note, there’s also a visually stunning scene where Ma-Ma is taking a bath while on the drug, and it’s simply her pulling her arm out of the soapy water in slow motion. The moment lasts a good 20-30 seconds, but it’s beautifully shot and the water is mesmerizing.
Director Pete Travis (Vantage Point) does a great job setting the stage for this film, showing some fantastic wide shots of Mega City One early on during a chase scene so that audiences understand the mess the nation is in. This is important since a majority of the film takes place inside of The Peach Tree, so the audiences understand that while this is an incredibly dire situation for these two judges, it’s also just a minor blip on the radar for major crimes happening at the time.
As mentioned above, Urban is just perfect in the role of Dredd, and the supporting cast works just as well. Thirlby plays the part of the rookie just as needed, in a way that instantly places Dredd in a veteran role, while also introducing him and his beliefs to the audience. She’s the half of the team that has an emotional connection to the world she lives in and the people in it, and Thirlby plays that off really well. Of course, that’s not to say she doesn’t have her own moments of badassery, because she does, and one of them in particular is right up there with anything Dredd does.
Headey (Game of Thrones) is a strong adversary to Dredd, and pitting the entire building against him and his partner make her that much more despicable. She’s given a quick, yet well told backstory that helps set her up as a major force in the drug business, and her seemingly never ending waves of henchmen help give her credibility as well. Is she overly memorable? Not so much, but she’s a threat, and in the situation the judges find themselves in, she’s the one with all the power.
The 3D has some really awesome moments, and it works well overall, really accentuating certain scenes. While the film will no doubt work just as well in 2D, and in eventual home video release, the 3D is cool enough to warrant a viewing theatrically with it.
Dredd is a character that you just want to see more of by the time 95 minutes pass by. It’s a double-edged sword to leave a movie having loved the character enough to hope for an instant sequel, and then the realize that we live in a time where movies don’t live up to expectations all the time and this could easily be a one and done scenario. Hopefully that’s not the case, as unlike back in 1995, this time they’ve done Dredd justice.
Director: Pete Travis
Writer: Alex Garland
Notable Cast: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey
Brendan Campbell was here when Inside Pulse Movies began, and he’ll be here when it finishes - in 2012, when a cataclysmic event wipes out the servers, as well as everyone else on the planet other than John Cusack and those close to him. Brendan’s the #1 supporter of Keanu Reeves, a huge fan of popcorn flicks and a firm believer that sheer entertainment can take a film a long way. He currently resides in Canada, where, for reasons stated above, he’s attempting to get closer to John Cusack.