Dredd 3D Movie Review - Bleak, Brutal, Bloody ...and Compelling
Who is Judge Dredd?
If you grew up in the Eighties, like I did, you may have been aware of a comic called "2000 AD", where the fictional character of Judge Dredd (note the spelling) was born.
To tell the truth, I was not all that interested in him or the comic, but some of my friends were and amongst all the role playing and board games we did, Judge Dredd became a common feature.
As we played, so my interest in the character grew.
Besides, he had a really cool gun coded to his DNA (so only he could use it) and he could change ammunition just by speaking to it.
In the stories, the world of the Judges was pretty bleak and that has been captured very well in "Dredd".
Most of this future world is an irradiated wasteland (called "the Cursed Earth", if you never read the comics) and the remaining people live in a few Mega Cities, squeezed together in towering apartment blocks.
Crime is rife and ordinary law enforcement agencies from our era would never cope.
Enter the Judges: police, judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one.
Enter Judge Dredd: the best and most famous Judge ever. Utterly committed to the Law and relentless in his pursuit of villains.
As the comics used to say "He's tough, but he's fair!"
Read on to find out more.
Forget Judge Dredd (1995)
Please don't mistake this as a remake or reboot of the Stallone "version" of Judge Dredd (from 1995).
That flick never really managed to hit the mark, didn't really 'get' the concept and is probably best forgotten and filed under "bin".
As a friend of mine commented at the time, "Robocop got there first".
"Dredd", on the other hand, is an all-new take on the lawmaker, which finally does it right.
It successfully portrays a bleak landscape, with depressed people and nasty thugs, living out difficult lives.
The core of the story is best described as "a day in the life of a Judge" and follows Dredd and a rookie called Anderson who is assigned to him for the mission.
She has previously been a 'fail' in the academy, but is given another chance because she is a powerful psychic, who can read people's minds.
Without going into too much detail that you could find elsewhere, they answer a multiple homicide call and end up trapped at the bottom of a building, with a drug running gang coming down to meet them from the 200th floor.
One block in MegaCity One
What follows is a series of great action set pieces, alternating with quieter moments of suspense or conversation.
There are some surprising twists and turns and it never really lets up until the end.
Don't expect any amazing character development, although both Dredd and Anderson are changed by the experience.
However, do expect to see a lot of blood, guts and gore.
Since most of the bad guys are already guilty and are actively shooting at our heroes, there is a lot of gunfire throughout and consequently a very high body count.
It kind of reminds me of the action movies of the eighties and nineties, in that respect.
Couple this with the movie's main conceit - a narcotic that slows down time for the user - and you have some 'interesting' gore effects in slow motion.
I suspect that this was done more for the 3D effect than anything else, but it does lend the movie it's own visual style.
I think it manages to avoid being yet another "Matrix look alike", but only just.
It's pretty gruesome in places, so be prepared, although IMO it holds back from being truly horrible in a few scenes - but again, only just!
You have been warned.
I'll be honest again: I had thought that the concept of Judge Dredd had had its day and no-one would ever produce a decent interpretation for the big screen.
So the only reason I wanted to see this movie was because Karl Urban was playing the main character.
He has become one of my favourite actors, playing as Dr McCoy in the Star Trek reboots, Eomer in Lord of the Rings, and a Russian agent in the second Bourne movie - each one completely different from the other.
He's a real old school 'character actor' and I'm a fan.
MegaCity 1 may be a concrete jungle, but Urban makes it his own.
Karl plays Dredd perfectly, displaying just the right balance of anger, stoicism and determination for the Judge to "get the job done".
This is no mean feat since, true to the comics, he never smiles and never, ever, removes his helmet.
He therefore only has his voice, mouth and chin to convey any emotion at all - but somehow, he does it.
The supporting cast are great too, with the thoughtful character of Anderson bouncing off the robotic Dredd, to give us some humanity and the few amusing lines of the piece.
In particular, watch (and listen) out for one moment early on in a lift with a captured 'Perp', plus another where Dredd thinks Anderson has forgotten her helmet...
I Am The Law
I missed it at the cinema and to my shame waited until the price came right down ...and then asked for it for Christmas!
Thing is, I watched it twice within a week and I keep coming back to it (when the wife is out and the kids are tucked up in bed, mind).
I wasn't the only one either.
It was slow on release, but has since taken on almost cult status.
- Just check out the reviews on Amazon and you'll see this to be true.
There's just something about it that makes for compelling viewing.
It's bloody, but being low budget, not all the blood looks realistic, which suits me.
It's not too deep, yet somehow manages to ask questions about justice and mercy along the way.
And yes, Dredd's gun is super cool.
I could probably take or leave the slow motion effects, but there's an intensity and a pace to the film that grabs hold of you and makes you want to follow it to its conclusion.
Now that, surely, is the making of a good movie.
Watch the official trailer here!
© 2014 Tim Bader