Dredd is based on a comic book that I was rather fond of when I was younger but haven’t read recently. It was previous adapted to an early 90s action-movie (titled Judge Dredd) starring Rocky himself, Sylvester Stallone. Having seen it…it’s pretty terrible, but not as bad as some of the other comic book movie misfires of the 90s, like Batman and Robin or Steel. Still, it was a critical and commercial flop, and now we have a new adaptation that overcomes a middling script to be a solid action flick.
Sorry, did I give away my opinion too early? Oh well, on we go. The setting is the future, naturally. Shit went tits up a few decades earlier and now everybody in North America lives in a huge city (supposedly going from Washington DC to Boston), where shit is still going tits up, with an inhumanly high crime rate. Dredd (Karl Urban) is a Judge (kind of uber-cop with rights to just shoot you if they feel they need to) training a rookie on a routine assignment. Soon enough he and the rookie are trapped in a giant apartment building, with no hope of reinforcements. Guess how they plan to get out. That’s right peaceful negotia- SHOOTING EVERYONE!
Okay so it’s not going to be winning any screenplay prizes, but it makes up for it in the technical details. A drug that causes time to appear to be passing at 1/100th it’s normal speed is well realized and sparsely used, the action scenes are well put together and gory as hell and it even has a couple of really cool set pieces. It’s also well paced, aside from a bit of a wonky opening action beat and a bit of Iron Man syndrome (late movie action scenes not being as good as the ones in the middle).
On the acting side, it’s mostly good. Karl Urban has the lead and he’s really good in it (which is nice, he’s had a shitty post-LotR career). He’s a solid action lead and an intimidating physical presence in the move, both of which work well. His sidekick is also okay, if a bit bland. The villain…is a bit more problematic. She’s played by Lena Headey, who is doing a riff on her Queen Cersei persona from Game of Thrones. She’s still good at it, but the character (who is built up as being a complete psychopath) is crying out for a couple good psychotic breaks. It’s not a deal breaker, but it is a little odd how underplayed her performance is.
There are some other issues with the movie. The screenplay seems like a nice ripe target. Yeah I know some of the lines are intentionally cheesy and kind of satirical (like the comic), but there’s a limit to how much you can pass under that. And while I like that the movie never forces anyone on either side to be idiots, some of the villain’s actions seem unnecessarily extreme.
Dredd is, ultimately, successful at what it wants to be. Am I confusing it with The Avengers or The Dark Knight Rises (or even Chronicle) in terms of quality now? No. Will anyone still be talking about in a few months when Zero Dark Thirty and The Hobbit are out? Probably not. But it’s ultimately a fun silly action movie and for what it’s worth, I’d like to see more of Judge Karl. So take this as a recommendation if you’re in the mood for a good R-Rated action movie.
Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he’d like to congratulate Karl Urban on making “I am the law,” sound good.