Filed under: Movie Reviews | Tags: 2000AD, John Wagner, Judge Anderson, Judge Dredd, Karl Urban, Lena Headey, Ma-Ma, Mega City One, Olivia Thirlby, Slo-Mo
Released just this week and with a nod of approval from Judge Dredd co-creator John Wagner the Comics Anonymous group were pretty psyched for a fresh new take on Mega City One’s most famous resident.
It’s no lie that 1995’s Judge Dredd starring Sylvester Stallone is viewed as a botched attempt to capture the feel of the character so there were a lot of high hopes pinned on this as Karl Urban takes the mantle of THE face of justice for a corrupt Mega City One and while Dredd may not have had the budget of it’s predecessor it’s certainly captured a truer sense of the character we know and love. If anything, that was one of the many key aspects that they HAD to get right this time, the fans alone demanded as much – the feel and look of Mega City One, the characters we know, the plot, the script all had to be pitch-perfect and they just nailed every one of those.
An opening monologue from Dredd lays out exactly what Mega City One is – the last remain sanctuary for the human race in a post-apocalyptic world but a violent, corrupt and pretty bleak place to exist in. Riot footage, drug and crime all escalate as the cramped city sees the criminals take charge in the scramble for supremacy – with only the Judges to act as the final barrier from all-out anarchy. A pleasant surprise was the movie getting an 18 rating – a rarity these days (One that excited Craig like a kid in a comic book shop) but given the level of violence that we see it’s no wonder, I guess the difference here is the context in which we see it. It’s not violence for violence sake – it’s fighting fire with fire as the main drug in the city, Slo-Mo, is spreading fast.
The plot itself can be summed up pretty easily as Dredd is assigned a rookie to assess while in active duty – a young, powerful psychic that the halls of Justice want to recruit regardless of her failed entry exams. In steps Judge Anderson and she gets to choose their first crime of the day……a triple murder at one of the bleakest tower-blocks in the City – Peach Trees. 200 stories of families fighting for survival while the entire block is a drug making, drug dealing turf war. A lockdown of the entire block sees both Judges going head to head with the entire drug gang, some corrupt Judges and our main villain and head of the entire drug culture – Ma-Ma. You’d have thought a psychic would’ve known to pick an easier start 😀
A pretty simple plot and with an automatic comparison to Indonesian film “The Raid” – there were a lot of concerns over this being released so soon after its release. The plot similarities were never going to sway me and let’s be honest; the movie business has been churning out the same plots in a million other movies without any concern. I can’t see why there were any concerns though as the whole point of going to see Dredd……is to see Judge Dredd.
Thanks to Karl Urban, we have our main character ripped out of the pages of 2000AD and dishing out justice the only way he knows how – brutally. Never taking off his helmet and holding onto John Wagner’s idea of the faceless, soulless persona of the Judges, Urban brings us a real-life Judge Joseph Dredd. Dishing out justice left and right….in other words, killing his way through the bad guys…..and all with the best one-liners we’ve had for a while……and with the best-timing too.
The other casting is strong too as Olivia Thirlby wows us as the psychic Rookie Judge Anderson – showing us the early introduction of a young Judge dealing with life as a Judge. Having been brought up in a similar tower block in the city and losing here parents when she was young…..the tormented psychic proves to be very much a human anchor in what could have been a one-dimensional approach to Dredd. Her introduction here offers a stronger balance to the movie as a whole – where Urban’s single-minded approach offers that smash/bang solution to upholding the law……Anderson still manages to cling to the thing remnants of hope & faith in the human-race.
The main opponent to the Judges and the “justice” they deal out is crime boss Ma-Ma – played by Lena Headey with as much soullessness as the Judges themselves. A brutal uprising from her days as a hooker sees her take over the drug trafficking and obliterate the competition in a turf war. The violence she deals out is extreme and her pursuit of all-out control and distribution of the Slo-Mo drug seems to elevate her power to that of the judges. Dredd vs Ma-Ma may not sound like much of a contest but it’s played out as a 50/50 split with multiple casualties along the way.
So Dredd has the look, the plot, the characters and everything else 2000AD that we could want and still I see & hear a number of negative opinions on the film. I’m completely amazed that there are any negatives for this because I can’t remember enjoying a film as much as this in years. True the violence won’t be for everyone…..but in the futuristic world being depicted…..is it any wonder that’s the case. Urban’s monotone one-liners are just brilliant and had me giggling like mad even on the way home – one’s I’m sure I’ll be using at work.
The bleak, gritty city worked well and I hope that sequels DO come and that we get to see the city itself expanded on as well as the Dredd/Anderson balance that’s achieved here. I’ve got to mention the soundtrack too as that added to the whole coolness of this movie as it rocked its way through the action scenes. I should also mention that the obligatory “I am the Law” line is spoken with much more weight and menace from Urban. A film I’ll be seeing again in the cinema no-doubt and one that I’d encourage everyone to go see – the REAL Dredd has just the cinemas.
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