Wednesday, June 18, 2014

#1,402. Dredd (2012)

Directed By: Pete Travis

Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey

Tag line: "Judgment is coming"

Trivia: Duncan Jones was offered the director's chair, but turned it down

Having never read the comic, all I ever knew of Judge Dredd came courtesy of Sylvester Stallone’s 1995 movie, which many Dredd faithful have criticized for the liberties it took (the chief complaint being that Stallone, who plays the lead, removed his helmet several times throughout the film, something Judge Dredd supposedly never does). By all accounts, director Pete Travis’s 2012 movie Dredd finally sets the record straight, giving the world a cinematic version of the character that honors the source material. 

Whether this is true or not, I can’t say, but the one thing I do know is that Dredd is an amazing action film!

It’s the not-too-distant future, and America has descended into chaos. While most of the country lies in ruin, a gargantuan metropolis known as Mega-City One spans the Eastern seaboard, from what was once Boston all the way to the remnants of Washington, D.C.,

Mega-City One is home to 800 million people, and to handle the thousands of crimes that occur there on a daily basis, the powers-that-be have created the “Judges”, a special law enforcement unit that has been granted absolute power; they not only arrest lawbreakers, but immediatwely pass judgment and even sentence them. If the crime is severe enough, the Judges can also act as executioners.

Of all the Judges, Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is the most feared, a no-nonsense lawman who always gets his criminal. It’s because of this that Dredd is asked to assess a brand new rookie named Anderson (Olivia Thirby), who, despite having failed the aptitude test, has a psychic ability that could prove useful during investigations.

For her first assignment, Anderson accompanies Dredd to the Peach-Tree, one of the city’s largest apartment buildings, to investigate a triple homicide that somehow involves a new super-drug known as “Slo Mo”, which dulls an addict’s senses and perceptions, making everything around them appear to be moving in slow motion. 

Shortly after arriving at the Peach-Tree, Dredd and Anderson apprehend Kay (Wood Harris), a henchman of powerful drug lord “Ma-Ma” (Lena Headey). Dredd intends to take Kay to HQ for questioning, but before he and Anderson can leave with their prisoner, Ma-Ma orders the entire building locked down, blocking all the exits with blast doors and trapping the two Judges inside. What’s more, Ma-Ma, who occupies the top floor of the Peach-Tree, makes a general announcement to the whole building that the Judges are to be killed, promising a reward to whoever finishes them off. 

On the run for their lives, and with hundreds of lowlifes now gunning for them, Dredd and Anderson must find a way to survive long enough to end Ma-Ma’s reign of terror.

Urban is convincingly intense as the title character, who, in the actor's capable hands, comes across as a total bad-ass. Preferring to work alone, Dredd is none too pleased that he's been teamed up with a raw recruit. When the two of them first set out, Dredd rattles off a list of offenses, from not following his orders to losing a weapon, that would amount to Anderson immediately failing the assessment. Dredd then asks, matter-of-factly, “You ready, rookie?” When Anderson says she is, Dredd replies, quite curtly, “The assessment starts now”. 

On the streets, Urban's Dredd is even more extreme, and doesn’t hesitate for a moment when passing judgment or carrying out a sentence. To avoid capture, one perpetrator takes a hostage. Not skipping a beat, Dredd makes "a deal" with this frightened individual, offering him life in prison without parole, but only if he lets the hostage go immediately. Unlike Stallone, Urban never takes the helmet off. But then, he doesn’t have to; we don’t need to see Dredd’s face to know how seriously he takes his job. We hear it in his voice, and we see it in the way he carries out his duties.

Along with Urban’s strong performance, Dredd boasts plenty of crazy action scenes, the craziest of which involves a high-powered assault cannon that tears an entire block of the Peach Tree apart, killing dozens of residents. As awesome as this sequence is, it’s but one of many ultra-violent, powerful confrontations to be found throughout the movie. 

I have no idea if any sequels to Dredd are in the works, but if there’s a modern action hero who deserves his own franchise, Judge Dredd is the one!


Unknown said...

I completely agree with every word said in this review. Dredd is a reboot done right, it's what a modern action movie should strive to be, and it's a refreshing alternative to the usual comic book movie.

TheVern said...

Very good review. This was a lot better then I thought it would be. Agree that Urban did a great job, and Headly was one of the best vilians on screen

Crash Palace said...

Excellent review of a phenomenal action film! My favorite of all time - and I'd love to see a double-feature of DREDD with THE RAID.

James Robert Smith said...

DREDD is a top-tier film. It's pretty much a flawless movie with complete dedication to the equally excellent source material. Like most people, I initially avoided it because of that execrable film that Stallone did. But I finally saw it on streaming access and was completely impressed with it.

Everything about the movie is good. Script. Direction. Photography. Dialogue. Performances.

Urban was spot-on perfect as Judge Dreddd, and Mama was a great villain. Nobody can sneer like Lena Headly.

DVD Infatuation said...

Thanks, everyone, for the comments!

Juan: I agree 100%. I wish all modern actoion movies were this exciting.

TheVern: Thank you! Yes, Urban was the perfect choice, and I've always been a fan of Headly *who, as you say, was excellent)

Crash: Thank you, my friend! And that would be an AWESOME double feature!

James: You said it perfectly! An action movie that deserves a wider audience than it received (and I hope they get a chance to make another one)

Solomon Grundy said...

Great film. Even though it borrowed a concept from The Raid: Redemption,a moviegoer shouldn't care because both films rock

CpT GoThMcLaD said...

Love the film and as a bit of useless info it's now been widely acknowledged even by Peter Travis that it was actually Alex Garland who directed it but he didn't want his name put to it because he thought as a first time director people might not give the film the chance it deserves quite a selfless act putting the success of the film above his ego very few directors who would do that