Dredd Review

poster from the DNA Pictures film Dredd

As I’ve probably mentioned before (ad nauseum), I’m not a fan of Sylvester Stallone’s. I do remember watching the old Judge Dredd, but I don’t remember caring enough find out that it was based on a comic book. Now that comic book movies are big moneymakers, they’ve dreddged (get it? Dreddged??) up the franchise and given it the modern FX treatment. The story is different:

Two judges, a veteran and a rookie, are trapped inside an apartment complex by a gang leader while trying to make a drug bust.

The 90s one was about Judge Dredd getting framed for murder, I think. Both make sense in terms of the world, which is a humungous lawless post apocalyptic city policed by judges who are actually more like executioners than anything else. It sounds like a token smashy smashy, but I really liked it.


After I saw the movie it took me a while to figure out why I liked it. I mean, Dredd (Karl Urban) never takes off his helmet. He never mentions his feelings or his thoughts, unless they’re related to making a judgment on some criminal.

Karl Urban as Judge Dredd from the DNA Pictures film Dredd

The sentence is death. BANG.

Dredd’s got a psychic rookie partner named Anderson (Olivia Thurlby), whom he’s evaluating, but the one time she’s about to say something about what’s going on in his head, they shut her down. I should think of Dredd like he’s furniture, but I don’t. I like him. Why? Frowny faces are about as far as Karl Urban can go to show emotion, as he’s only got his lips to work with.

Karl Urban makes a frowny face from the DNA Pictures film Dredd

DREDD UPSET. OOG.

He does tell a few jokes and he’s nice to his radiation mutant partner in the way that he doesn’t make fun of her for being a radiation mutant like everyone else does, but that’s about it. I can only conclude that Karl Urban himself has psychic superpowers and is able to make you care about his characters across great distances and through big thick helmets.

Olivia Thurlby and Karl Urban from the DNA Pictures film Dredd

Let us pause while I send out magical thought beams to the audience.

As for his partner, I was worried she was going to be the “oh no, I’m trapped, please save me!” type, but she’s pretty bad-ass in her own way too. Her psychic superpowers let her jump into gangbangers heads, pull out information, and make them imagine things that are so scary that they pee their pants. At one point she does get captured, but thankfully she doesn’t need rescuing.

Olivia Thurlby is captured from the DNA Pictures film Dredd

Um, if I get gang raped will I fail my evaluation?

I mostly focus on the characters when I think of this movie (thin as they are) because the plot is really, really simple. Two judges are called in to investigate a punishment killing by the Mama clan, lead by a batsh** crazy former hooker named Mama (Lena Headey).

Lena Headey as Mama from the DNA Pictures film Dredd

Say hello to my little friend… and also this huge gun.

She forces her pet hacker (Domhnall Gleeson) to trap them inside the apartment building (which holds like 150,000 people, so it’s more like a Canadian city) and hunts them down to keep them from reporting back that she is making all of the new designer drug in Mega City One.

Mega City One from the DNA Pictures film Dredd

When they say Mega City, they mean really mega. Look at the size of those things.

The drug itself is mostly an excuse to craft cool special effects. It’s called Slo Mo and it slows down the user’s perception of time, so they spend all day fascinated by the progress of dust motes, water splashes, and the droplets of their own blood that are flung into the air when Dredd shoots their faces off. Anytime they want a cool shot, they switch to a Slo-Mo user’s perspective.

gang members face explodes from the DNA Pictures film Dredd

You would think that perceiving time at 1% of normal would give you plenty of time
to move out of the way of a bullet, but no.

As I said in my Taken review, there’s something oddly satisfying about summary justice – a human trafficker getting his trachea crushed by the edge of Liam Neeson’s hand or a crooked judge getting a high explosive round in the face from Karl Urban’s video-game like multi-purpose weapon. Dredd has a lot of that. A lot. In 3D.

Dredd mows down perps from the DNA Pictures film Dredd

Take that, bitches!

So should you go see Dredd? Well I liked it. It’s super bad ass. There’s nothing too obviously wrong with it, and I ended up caring about the characters somehow, even though they’re not all that deep. So yeah, if you like action movies, go see it. It’s better than Taken because it’s all futuristic and you don’t have to put up with the annoying daughter.

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