I am the Law: Dredd Movie Review
Dredd is a 2012 action movie based on the 2000 AD comic book character. Some might remember Sylvester Stallone's notoriously bad (but fun to watch drunk) Judge Dredd from 1995. I am happy to write that this is not that. The 2012 movie is a triumph and was a solid attempt to bring the character back to life on the big screen.
1995 Dredd vs 2012 Dredd
The movie stars Karl Urban as the titular character who does a stellar job especially considering we never actually see his face. Dredd takes place in a dystopian future rife with crime. Societies desperation has given birth to the Judges; an all in one justice system with the power of judge, jury and executioner. Karl Urban was born to play this character equally as impressive is Olivia Thirlby as Anderson; a rookie Judge with physic abilities. This movie could quite easily have fallen down the same ridiculous macho rabbit hole where Stallone's’ film still resides but amazingly it managed to hit all the right beats and cleverly keeps the premise simple. When Dredd and Anderson become trapped and hunted by a gang in a huge tower block the action starts and rarely let’s up.
Refreshingly the character with the main arc is Anderson. I don’t want to give away too much if you have not seen the film but go in knowing that Dredd does not really change and this film (for me at least) was more about the female characters. Lena Headey (who is most known for her role as Sarah Conner in the cult Terminator TV series and Game of Thrones) heads up the gang hunting the Judges as Ma Ma . Her back-story is grim and realistic in this world which helps us sympathise with the character in a small way making the villain more believable. Headey is utterly convincing as the ruthless and conniving crime boss and I would like to have seen more from her in the movie.
The most interesting thing about this film is the way it looks. Many of the action scenes are slowed down in an effort to conjure up the feeling of the fictional drug Slo-Mo which makes time pass at 1% its normal speed for the user. Although slow motion is over-used in movies here it feels right as the effects of the drug clearly link in with the story of the film. The visuals are nothing short of amazing which is hardly surprising with a talent such as Anthony Dod Mantle on Cinematographer duties.
With little to complain about this is clearly a triumph in the action genre. If I had to choose something to criticize it would be the passing of the opportunity to build tension. In an effort to keep this review firmly in non-spoiler territory I won’t go into detail other than to say that a certain scene could have benefited from letting the audience know something with the characters being blissfully unaware. Although Urban is great in this role I think the movie could have benefited from more of a character arc from Dredd who remains largely unchanged by the events of the movie. This is every day life for the character and this was never meant to be that kind of movie but it would have been nice to see some sway in the way Dredd carries himself in the film. These are minor points and if you go in expecting a solid and self contained action movie, you will not be disappointed.
Writer Alex Garland continues to impress from his early days working with Danny Boyle on 28 Days Later right up to movies such as Ex Machina and Dredd sits perfectly in between these modern masterpieces. Unfortunately the film did not perform as well as the creators had hoped at the box office and despite petitions and campaigns by fans to get a sequel to Dredd made, it remains a one off and I don't mind that. Perhaps one day we will see a Dredd TV show set in Alex Garlands universe with Karl Urban returning. At this point that is the most likely direction for any further stories in this world.
Did you enjoy this review? Do you want to know more about how I think tension could have been used more or did you disagree completely? Let me know your thoughts by commenting below or connecting with me on Twitter and Facebook.