Pete Travis' "Dredd"

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Post by Deviss on Fri Dec 21, 2012 4:30 pm

Deviss wrote:"Ma-Ma is not the law... I am the law."

  • Story: Three and a half Stars
  • Acting: Four Stars
  • Directing: Three and a half Stars
  • Visuals: Four Stars
  • Overall: Three and a half Stars

Even though it was six or seven years ago, I can still remember sitting down in my living room one afternoon, with next to nothing to do that day, and putting a VHS tape with the name, "Judge Dredd". All I knew about the movie before it started playing was that is starred Sylvester "Sly" Stallone. Which in hindsight is never a good enough reason to watch any movie. Great actors and actresses can make movies that aren't worth the film they're put on. "Judge Dredd" was a prime example of that.


The future America is a post-apocalyptic, irradiated wasteland. On the country's East Coast, spanning from Boston to Washington D.C. lies the enormous megalopolis Mega-City One. The only thing keeping the criminals that run the city's streets at bay are the men and women of the Hall of Justice, known as Judges, who have the powers of judge, jury, and executioner at their disposal. Most feared among them is the ruthless and implacable Judge Dredd (Karl Urban). After responding to a triple homicide call in Peach Trees, a 200-storey slum tower block, it falls to Dredd and rookie Judge Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) to staunch the flow of Slo-Mo, a new drug being distributed by Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), a former prostitute turned drug lord and criminal kingpin. But after taking one of Ma-Ma's top men hostage in a raid, Ma-Ma locks down Peach Trees and puts the order out: kill the Judges and anyone who helps them.

From the moment I saw the theatrical trailer for "Dredd", which was over half a year ago and still doesn't seem like it, I knew it would be one to keep an eye on. At the time of its announcement, Karl Urban had already established himself as one to follow back in "The Two Towers", for myself anyway, but after seeing him in the garb of the famous comic book character Judge Dredd, my desire to see this movie was immediate. But not everyone was as excited as I was. The biggest fear among the hardcore Dredd fans was, "Will he take the helmet off? He'd better not take that f---ing helmet off!" That was one of the numerous faults in 1995's "Judge Dredd".

As a newly initiated Dredd fan, I can happily say that Urban makes no move to remove his helmet throughout the movie. In fact, he is all the more engrossing because of that fact. All we ever see of Dredd's head and face is the back of his head in the movie's introductory scenes and his mouth and chin for the rest of the movie's duration. While "Dredd" played out, my mind kept bringing up Tom Hardy's performance as the DC comics character Bane in Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises". In that film, Bane had ninety-five percent of his face covered for nearly the entire time and he was utterly fascinating because of it. The level of intensity that Hardy was able to achieve with just his eyes and body language was amazing. While Mister Urban didn't achieve "Bane level" with his performance, he came very close with the little amount of his face that was available.

Everything else, from the character's demeanor, body language, and speech, was top notch as well. Having seen the theatrical trailer at least a half-a-dozen times, I found myself quoting certain lines as he spoke them. Even after the movie was over, I walked around my house growling, "Judgement time" and "I am the law" in a tone that was close to Urban's Christian Bale-esque tones. Not knowing very much of the comic book character, and thereby having little to go on, I think Mister Urban did a great job with the character of Judge Dredd. I'm not sure about it's status now, but I would certainly be interested in seeing Urban returning for future movies.

As the film's only female characters, Olivia Thirlby and Lena Headey were quite entertaining as rookie Judge Cassandra Anderson and Madelaine Madrigal aka "Ma-Ma" respectively. Slightly moreso in Ma-Ma's case. I haven't heard word one of Thirlby before this, but she was interesting enough as Anderson. Aside from one particular scene where her involvement was indirect at best, there wasn't anything that she did herself to warrant an increased level of interest from me. I wasn't even overly concerned for her during the movie's climax, not because I didn't care for the character or the actress herself, but because Thirlby's performance just wasn't engrossing enough. But that doesn't stand to say I outright "hated" her. Thirlby and her character... coasted through "Dredd".

However, Lena Headey did anything but coast with her performance. While it wasn't up to the same level as her past performances, the character of Ma-Ma was devious and savage enough to make Cersei Lannister proud. I did find the character's back-story to be particularly... appropriate for what we would see of her as the movie progressed. The only real disappointment was how Ma-Ma was ultimately dealt with. Granted the scene was wonderfully done, as were the rest of the "slo-mo" scenes, but as the character descended towards its final fate, it felt like a disservice to everything she had done up to that point.

One very big relief of mine was the presentation and execution of the "slo-mo" scenes. Some may find them to be pointless or boring, but let me tell you they could have been so much worse. I don't have very many references to call back on, but I can say what we're given in "Dredd" is probably the best we've seen of "slo-mo". While a few scenes were overly fantastical and or unbelievable, the rest were utterly fascinating. Namely the scene of Ma-Ma in her bathtub. Don't worry, this won't get gratuitous or unwholesome, I simply wanted to highlight the impressive visuals, in this scene especially.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to listen to the soundtrack for "Dredd" as I typed out this review. I did have the soundtrack, but the quality of the individual tracks was worse than I originally assumed. I'm hoping to get a much better version soon, but from what I heard throughout this movie, the soundtrack was very good. Unlike the conventional score, which calls on the expected instruments, Paul Leonard-Morgan wrote a more "industrial" to suit the movie's futuristic setting. More than once I found my foot tapping along to the beat of whichever song was playing at the time.

I'm sure by now you've noticed my omitting of the "3D" from the movie's name. I chose to write the title the way I did because I felt that the "3D" did nothing to contribute to this movie. Some scenes were easily recognizable, but by the time they registered for me, Judge Dredd was already shooting his way through another horde of Ma-Ma's cronies. The 3D aspect was completely pointless, especially the inclusion in the movie's title. That was an immediate buzzkill when I first saw the theatrical trailer.

While it had it's more brutal moments, and barring the egregious application of 3D,"Dredd" was a very enjoyable experience overall. If you're a fan of Karl Urban, or the comic book character himself, give this movie a watch.

This was a review by tMG. I've got some judgment to administer...

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