Dredd is a very different kind of comic book movie from what you’d expect. It has a much smaller scale compared to those other movies I listed. The majority of the movie takes place within the building of Peach Trees, due to the budget restraints it had. However, that doesn’t detract from how excellent a movie I thought it was.
This honestly felt like a day in the life of a Judge, considering how little story there is. Now don’t take that as a sleight against the movie. It actually uses its simplicity to its advantage by engaging the viewers with its world and spectacle. Admittedly, we don’t see a lot of Mega-City 1, but we do see a lot of its personality and bite. It’s a harsh and dirty city, where people are so desensitized to the violence around them that it’s simply a part of life now. While I do think the setting looks too modern and not enough cyberpunk future-like, it definitely captured the feel of the genre.
The majority of the effects for Dredd went into the Slo-Mo drug effects, where everything is perceived from the characters’ eyes of everything slowing down time to 1% of normal. I must commend the movie for actually integrating their slow motion effects into the plot and actually making superb use of it. Unlike other action movies where they simply feature slow motion for the sake of slow motion, Dredd has it show exactly how brutal and ugly violence is and it shows with incredible effect when a person is shot or thrown from a great height. It gives the impact so much more meaning and hits the point home. It’s oddly beautiful in the way how you blow someone’s face off.
Now don’t think that means the action scenes are full of slow motion. Goodness no. It’s actually pretty well-shot and straight to the point, and still displays the incredibly rough and harsh action you’d expect from an R-rated action movie. A punch isn’t “powerful”. It’s “I’m going to kick your ass”. A gunshot isn’t clean. It’s bloody and messy. And it’s awesome.
While the action was definitely very good, I do think it helps that it has very good characters. While Dredd doesn’t have a lot known about, there is a character for him. Karl Urban does a fantastic job in recreating the law-bound Dredd on the big screen. Dredd isn’t just some thick-headed brute; he shows a great devotion to what he believes in and despises those that choose to desecrate it. So he desecrates them. For a character that you can only see the jaw of, you can detect a lot of personality from him. And a small thing I’d like to note is that while Urban does take on a gruff tough guy voice, it is faaaaaaaaar more natural than the guttery and laughable Batman voice Christian Bale does. He actually sounds intimidating and not like a punk trying too hard.
Olivia Thirlby’s Judge Anderson makes for a good counterpoint for Dredd. She’s the rookie to his experienced, seen-it-all soldier. She serves as the heart for the movie, but this story is about how this experience hardens her to make the tough choices. She isn’t a morality chain for Dredd. She knows this dog-eat-dog world, and she has to be the one that brings chaos back to order. She and Dredd make for an excellent pair and the movie was better for it.
The character of Ma-Ma wasn’t exactly “bad”, but she wasn’t really the kind of villain I expected for a movie like this. Then again, I think the movie was more about how much power she held and how afraid everyone was of her. She wasn’t a brawling villain that the hero must defeat using his strength. She was a symbolic villain for Dredd to take down and instill the law into. It’s nice to see something a little different.
I honestly have little to no complaints about this movie. I suppose I could list off how its story and characters are bit too shallow and mostly is an action flick or how the dialogue could come off as a little scripted rather than natural, but Dredd really is an experience kind of movie. It isn’t stupid, like Expendables 2. It can clever with its ideas, and I liked it a lot.
For the man that is the law, I give a:
4.5 out of 5
– Dark and brutal action
– Excellent use of slow-mo and other effects
– Well casted, and characters full of personality
– Simple story that knows what it is
– Probably a bit too shallow for its own good
– Dialogue kind of stilted
– Ma-Ma villain could have used a bit more backstory in-movie
Recommendation: Must See!
Dredd is a wonderfully bloody action movie. I hear that it’s not making much money in the box office, and I ask you all to please go see it. It is a very good action movie and I would love to see a sequel.
Dredd was produced by DNA Films, IM Global, and Reliance Entertainment; and distributed by Entertainment Film Distributors and Lionsgate.