Before I begin this review for Dredd I feel like I should make a few things clear…. I’m not very familiar with 2000A.D. So I can’t comment much on the the film’s faithfulness. I also haven’t yet watched The Raid, so I won’t be busy making unnecessary comparisons.
That said, I thoroughly enjoyed Dredd. It’s a gritty movie. Mega-City One is a dirty, futuristic city filled with poverty and high crime. The city is a wasteland where people are corralled into these tower block megastructures. In essence, Mega-City One is portrayed exactly right to be faithful to the comic. It is because the city is such a sprawling wasteland which can’t be helped that there is the need for judges, particularly those who can’t be corrupted like Judge Dredd.
Speaking of Dredd, I thought Karl Urban’s performance seemed spot-on for the character. It’s a difficult role to play. Dredd is such a hardliner. He doesn’t bend the rules or make exceptions. So you need to find a way to make him likeable, you know, without taking off his helmet or making quips. I think Urban walked the line just about perfectly. Despite having inspired Robocop, Judge Dredd isn’t a machine. He’s one man fighting to uphold the law. Urban managed to find a wry humour in the role on occasion, and really nailed his line when Dredd tells Anderson they must go back into Peach Tree because they’re even more vulnerable outside.
Olivia Thirlby as Judge Anderson is a nice counterpart to Dredd. In a lot of ways, the audience experiences Dredd and the character of Judge Dredd through her rookie eyes. She offers a certain vulnerability which Dredd (both movie and character) is lacking. Which doesn’t mean she can’t more than handle herself when things get hairy in Peach Tree! However, I must say, sometimes her psychic abilities were conveniently unavailable when it suited the story.
Then there’s Lena Headey. To be honest, I hated her in Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles. Her portrayal of Sarah Connor was insipid. Apparently playing bad guys is where her talent truly lies, and you can tell she enjoys it. As Ma-Ma, the psychotic gang leader who controls Peach Tree, she is a frightening product of life in Mega-City One. Ma-Ma is smart and self-assured all the way until the end, making her the perfect foil for Dredd.
The movie itself is tightly plotted, running at a mere 95 minutes in length. Personally I thought it was just the right length for the simple story told. Basically, when Dredd and Anderson show up at Peach Tree to investigate a murder, Ma-Ma locks down the entire tower block declaring open season on Judges in a bid to protect her burgeoning designer drug product, Slo-Mo. From then on it’s one hairy shoot out after another, as Dredd and Anderson attempt to stay alive.
The Slo-Mo itself provides for an interesting stylistic look. Seeing bullets ripping into brains in slow motion certainly warrants the film’s “R” rating. And may I say how grateful I am they didn’t try to tame the movie down to bring in a younger audience. True, it might have helped the film’s box office (a better trailer would also have helped!) but anything less than the level of violence we saw, wouldn’t have done justice to the world that Judge Dredd lives in.
Ultimately, as I said earlier, I can’t comment on the Dredd’s fidelity to its source material, and I certainly won’t compare Dredd to The Raid. However I can honestly say Dredd is a brutal, adrenaline-filled action movie that is sure to make you forget all about the Stallone film.