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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.9%
Worth A Look54.84%
Average: 6.45%
Pretty Bad: 22.58%
Total Crap: 3.23%

3 reviews, 13 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"Maybe not scrotnig, but zarjaz as all heck."
4 stars

While a fair amount of time has been spent assuring fans that "Dredd" is a more faithful adaptation of the strip appearing in "2000 AD" than another movie from almost twenty years ago, that understates the case a bit: This movie is actually closer to the ideas behind the franchise than the strip itself, with some actual thought beneath its plentiful violence.

Near the turn of the twenty-second century, much of America is a barren wasteland, and Mega-City One stretches down the east coast from Boston to Washington. It's too small a place for eight hundred million people, so crime is rampant, and the justice system has been streamlined to fit on a motorcycle, the arresting officer also a judge and, as need be, executioner. Judge Joe Dredd (Karl Urban) is one of the city's best, and today he's been assigned to evaluate rookie Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a borderline graduate from the Academy with psychic abilities that the Chief Judge hopes will make her a valuable asset. Their first call takes them to a triple homicide in the Peach Trees city-block (an entire blighted city packed into one skyscraper), which is controlled by Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and the distribution center for all the Slo-Mo (a drug which causes people to experience time at 1% of normal speed) in the sector - and when Dredd and Anderson arrest one of her lieutenants (Wood Harris), she seals the block and orders the judges killed.

Budget probably played a large role in how the producers chose to adapt Dredd this time around; too expensive, and you need an American studio behind it, and they'll be demanding it be watered down to a PG-13 and softening the characterization, asking to make Dredd less fascist and more heroic and missing the point. So instead of presenting Mega-City One as it is in the comics, with bright colors, gaudy designs, and a different future-shocking oddity around every corner, the filmmakers go for a gritty, impoverished realism that makes the judges a natural response to the world in a way that does not always come across in six-page bursts of sci-fi action and broad satire. Every element looks like an extrapolation of the present, from the city's brutalist geometry to the SWAT-inspired uniform and Dredd's dinged-up helmet. As much as Mega-City One has always been a world built to supply Dredd with challenges, it's more of a nightmare here, without the fanciful touches that make the comic as much cheeky black comedy as gritty action.

As much as Mega-City One exists to feature Dredd, he has generally been as much an entry point for telling stories about the city and personification of the law as an actual character. That's why the helmet stays on in the comics and in this movie. That's not to say he must necessarily lack personality; Karl Urban handles his sneaky sarcasm well, and his harsh-but-fair characterization changes its tone in noteworthy ways as the film goes on. It's a marked contrast to Anderson, who seldom puts her helmet on. There's an in-story reason, of course, but what we see early on is that she can't quite be dispassionate in the way Dredd is; she identifies with people and from what we see in Olivia Thirlby's face, she probably can't help it. There's an argument that Anderson is the movie's actual protagonist and Thirlby its real star, and she gives a performance worthy of that assessment, a nervous rookie who hopefully can find some steel within without losing herself.

Of course, the draw for Dredd is action, and neither screenwriter Alex Garland nor director Pete Travis messes around. The violence starts early and is fairly merciless, earning a hard R rating both for the plentiful blood and guts and for the callousness with which both Dredd and his foes dish it out. It's not necessarily the most creative and varied violence - Slo-Mo impacts the action scenes far less than one might predict - but it's well-choreographed and unapologetic in its viciousness. People might jump out of the shadows to drop someone with a bullet to the head, but they're shadows that have been established as having room to hide. The action may not be quite as impressive as the similarly-structured The Raid (which, before one shouts rip-off, started production after Dredd), but it's good stuff.

It's enhanced by the movie generally being put together quite nicely. Paul Leonard-Morgan's music has just enough of an electronic edge to feel futuristic while still having a knockabout action-movie feel. Anthony Dod Mantle shoots the movie very nicely indeed, and his work blends with the FX guys' seamlessly. 3D was part of the movie from the very start, and the filmmakers use it to give action scenes a sense of space and Mega-City One scale. It's not perfect, though - the filters used to add fake grain to some shots don't seem to play nice with 3D at times, for instance. Ma-Ma would be a completely uninteresting villain if not for Lena Headey; Dredd could occasionally use some of its source material's humor and high concept, because what's the point of setting something in the future if it could take place today without much in the way of change?

It's a good action/adventure, though, with plenty of style and just enough substance underneath to be more than it appears. Even if it wasn't, it still appears to be a solid, well-made action flick that's enjoyably undiluted.

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originally posted: 09/25/12 13:36:29
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2012 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2012 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/08/18 Dr.Lao Better than the Stallone version 4 stars
1/08/16 David Hollingsworth boring 1 stars
9/04/14 David Green great 4 stars
9/17/13 mr.mike Bring back Sly! 3 stars
9/10/13 KingNeutron Anthrax still MIA :( but this one was way better than Stallone's :) 4 stars
3/28/13 Eggy Joe Captured the feel of the comic, thoroughly enjoyed it 5 stars
10/10/12 Daniel Scott Way better than the Stallone one! There was a Stallone one?! 5 stars
10/05/12 Petrus Not perfect, but I felt justice was served. 4 stars
10/02/12 scott maxwell it was ok 3 stars
9/30/12 Ronald Holst all i can say6 irt was Dread full 2 stars
9/27/12 Watch Movies Online Free This is a good movie, that looks nothing like a comic book and more like an action movie. 4 stars
9/27/12 the truth YES. for once a truly faithful comic book movie. not for the kids : ) 5 stars
9/23/12 Daniel Fantastic movie. If you're into Sci-Fi and bad asses, this movie is great. 5 stars
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  21-Sep-2012 (R)
  DVD: 08-Jan-2013


  DVD: 08-Jan-2013

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