I’ll admit. My familiarity with the 2000 A.D. comic book character, Judge Dredd, is not a lot. Before watching this movie, I did a little research to try to get a feel for the characters themselves. When the movie Judge Dredd came out in the 90s, I went to see it because I’m a huge Stallone fan. That being said, other than some cheesy entertainment, that film was very subpar to what I felt a comic book movie should be.
When they announced Karl Urban would be playing the title character in a 2012 remake (completely unassociated with the Stallone movie) I was both excited and worried. I feel that Karl Urban is one of the best actors out there today, and I knew he could pull off the role. What had me worried was that people would remember the movie from the 90s and associate that with this new one. Apparently that happened in the U.S.. Overseas, Dredd made a decent amount of money for what it was. Here, in the States, it flopped. Unfortunately, that is sad, and after watching this movie, I realize that it didn’t get a fair shot.
To begin this review, I will warn that there WILL BE SPOILERS! If you want my thoughts without spoilers, scroll down to the last paragraph. When I saw the trailers, they honestly didn’t do much for me. Even up until the moment I went to watch this movie last night, I had concerns. I’m glad that I didn’t read too far into them.
Let’s begin with the casting. I’ve already mentioned Karl Urban and my thoughts on him. His performance was Judge Dredd, from what I know. Lena Headey as the villain Ma-Ma was completely believable. I enjoy Headey’s work, and don’t think that a better person could have been chosen for the role. Some minor castings that were notable were Wood Harris as Kay and Domhnall Gleeson as a computer techie. Harris was not very impressive in his performance, but there were a few moments where he was decent. Gleeson on the other hand was extremely creepy, and deserves credit for pulling off the role well.
The most impressive of performances, and one that I feel carried the movie was Olivia Thirlby as Judge Cassandra Anderson. Maybe it was the fact that her character had psychic abilities, so she was forced to have more emotion, but the wave of positions she took in the movie was impressive. She had a compassionate side, a disturbed side, and definitely proved to be a badass when she needed to be.
Plot decisions: The story chosen for this movie was a smart move. Instead of going with an origin, they went with a typical day in the life story, which skipped all of the nonsense that we didn’t need to see. The voiceover by Karl Urban in the beginning is all of the back story we need for this film.
Having Dredd and Anderson in a locked down building with thousands of people targeting them (or having reason to) was an instant burst of adrenaline and palm sweating material. The whole time you had to wonder how the hell they were going to survive. My only real complaint is that when the four “bad” judges showed up toward the end, they didn’t seem like much competition for Anderson or Dredd. I also felt that when Dredd and Anderson both got shot, it was too easy of a repair. The blood lost didn’t even weaken our heroes.
Visual and Sound effects: Wow! That is all I really have to say. Mega City One was amazing. Not many movies can pull of 3D or slow motion. In fact, I feel that those two effects are way overused in movies as a gimmick. Most of the time, it doesn’t even work right. Dredd pulls it off. Of course, the slow mo was used more in the drug induced scenes, which made it have a purpose. The gore factor also gave it a realistic feel as well. You know Dredd is dealing with criminals with complete disregard for human life, and he is there to judge them appropriately. If this movie didn’t have the blood and guts, there would be no point in making it, because it wouldn’t be believable.
The sound was also notable in that I don’t think it could have been mixed any better or planned differently to make it more impressive.
SPOILERS END HERE with final thoughts. Dredd is FAR underrated. The way it ended made me want more, and I hope that a sequel is greenlit. If you haven’t seen it, and are a comic book or action film fan, then check it out. If you still are unsure, then let me put it this way. ROBOCOP + THE PUNISHER + MAD MAX + better plot = DREDD. I definitely believe that in 2012 it ranks right up there with The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, and in fact surpassing the latter in some aspects. For 2013, I’m redoing my ratings, so instead of a scale of 1-10, I’ll rate things on a five scale. Dredd gets 4 out of 5 sCrypt seals of approval in my opinion. Chime in with your thoughts below!