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Dredd (2012): A Movie Review

Updated on September 25, 2012
Judgement time.
Judgement time.

Take note that I am not familiar with the eponymous character of the 2012 film as reviewed beyond the big screen, and will only judge the film as it is. See what I did there? Never mind.

Set in a dystopian future, against the irradiated backdrop of what used to be America, a city stood, a dirty amalgamation of the past and present, over which hung a balance between order and chaos. Offsetting the rampant violence and drug-induced iniquity are the Judges, bearing down on their opposition with the combined judicial powers of judge, jury and executioner.

Assigned alongside rookie Judge Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) to investigate a homicide case, Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) uncovered something much bigger linking a new drug on the block known as Slo-Mo, which dulls the user's perception of time, to the ruthless female gang leader, Ma-Ma (Lena Meadey).

You can already tell it's going to be a special-effect fest from the plot's main driving element, Slo-Mo, which enables you to see everything in slow motion while everything else happens around you in real time. It also brings to mind the recent Sherlock Holmes sequel: A Game of Shadows, with its abuse of the slow motion effect. The only difference is that Dredd had an excuse for subjecting our eyes to the visual torture.

Graphic violence encompassed most of the film, the kind that may seem reminiscent to most of the recent Expendables film, though it more reminded me of Tarantino's Kill Bill films with the wanton degree of bloodshed displayed, though I suppose I have yet to watch more of such films to draw a more appropriate comparison with Dredd.

Overall, along with instances of Judge Dredd playing the bad cop, which is most of the time, you'll be watching people getting killed, blood getting spilled, through the wonderful lens of slow motion. Love it, hate it, it doesn't look like it's going anywhere.

The musical accompaniment, courtesy of composer Christopher Paul Leonard-Morgan, further accentuates the dystopic atmosphere of the film. As an example, here's the soundtrack titled Mega City One, where the harsh, unsettling rhythm and beat reflect a city in perpetual ruins.

Dredd, played by Karl Urban
Dredd, played by Karl Urban | Source
Cassandra Anderson, played by Olivia Thirlby.
Cassandra Anderson, played by Olivia Thirlby. | Source
Ma-Ma, played by Lena Meadey.
Ma-Ma, played by Lena Meadey. | Source


Far from your typical comic-book heroes with their misplaced sense of self-righteousness, Judge Dredd is depicted as the sort to shoot first and ask questions later, though rarely is the convicted sufficiently alive to respond; the sort to see things in black and white, which makes dealing out the Judges' brand of justice all the more expedient.

Considering Judge Dredd keeps his helmet on throughout the whole film, the only feature that distinguishes him from the other Judges in it is Karl Urban's gruff voice, one of restraint barely holding back a bubbling rage within. Which makes one wonder whether he ever considered auditioning for the role of Batman before Nolan settled with Christian Bale.

One other thing I loved about Dredd is his gun, which seems to hold a wide range of ammunition in one cartridge. It also seems a Judge's gun is something a man could call by a female name and stroke lovingly while nobody's looking, pretty much what he would do to a car. At first, it struck me as funny, the way everyone keeps spelling out the nature of their offensive like anime characters usually do. It eventually caught on, adding a more menacing charm to every shot dealt out than would the ostentatiousness of anime ever accomplish.

Female power is demonstrated equally from both sides: on one side the deadly Ma-Ma (short for Madeline Madrigal) spitting blood in the face of the Shakespearean expression, 'hell hath no fury like a woman scorn', subsequently giving something for her all-men gang to fear and respect; on the other side Cassandra Anderson, who also happens to be a mind-reading mutant, due to the effects of radiation exposure. Despite being new to the business, Cassandra is more than capable of defending herself, on one occasion pulling Dredd out of a tight spot, while suffering her superior's merciless sense of justice.

Kay, played by Wood Harris.
Kay, played by Wood Harris. | Source

Let's not forget Kay, the gangster held hostage by Dredd and company, played by Wood Harris, whom I mistook for Mos Def initially. Well, he's not really important, aside from occasionally attempting to intimidate rookie Anderson (and failing), and only to be put back in his place by Ma-ma.

In a world such as Dredd's, there is no good and evil. Where moral ambiguity is rampant, people simply take the side which guarantees them the utmost benefit, while establishing their own opposition in the process. While one seeks to maintain order, the other places itself in the pursuit of satisfaction to their immediate needs, and the rest remain oppressed in between. There are no victors in wars; only victims, as they say.


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