For Your Consideration: Dredd


Poor Old Judge Joseph Dredd. Last time he was brought to most Americans’ attention it was through a horrible (albeit entertaining for all the wrong reasons) half-baked Stallone action affair. It was filled with people whose jaws defied physics arguing about who or what was “da law” without using their inside voices, dumbed-down source material, and worst of all- Rob Schneider. It was easy to understand why audiences didn’t want anything to do with the popular British comic book lawgiver. Thankfully, Dredd gives the character some much needed redemption.

Dredd takes place in the post-nuclear, doomsday future where most of the of the world is smoldering wasteland. People reside in the giant metropolis known as Mega-City that stretch for hundreds of miles. To control the rampant crime and chaos, the Judges were established. The Judges act as a special and ruthless police force who are judge, jury, and in some cases executioners. The film focuses on the titular character, Dredd. The higher-ups want him to train rookie Judge Anderson, who they are very invested in due to her psychic abilities. Things go very badly, of course, when a routine murder investigation turns to fight for survival against one of the most dangerous drug dealers in Mega City 1, Ma Ma.

With such a small budget it is impressive what Dredd has accomplished. It has fully brought the grimey, dirty world of Mega City 1 to life. The hodge podge of a modern major city combined with a Mad Max-like desert world feels like a realistic natural extension of a possible end-of-the-world event. A dash of high sci-fi concepts- drugs that slow down time, psychic warfare, computer eyes, and DNA reading guns- present a fully realized world on a tight budget.

For such a terrible, dirty place it’s weird to say that Mega-City 1 and the entirety of Dredd is beautiful to watch. Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle creates some breathtaking shots, making Dredd a visually stunning movie from start to end. The visuals of Dredd give it a leg up over most of its action movie brothers. The odd combination of the dirty apartment complexes and an unusual color palette give the movie a dreamlike quality. Also, thought to be ran into the ground by other movies, Dredd uses slow motion shots and 3D exceptionally well. Brutal actions scenes slow down giving them ethereal qualities and dreamy visuals. They are less gunfights and more ballets of bullets.

Dredd not only beats out the original with visuals, but it digs into the center of why a character like Dredd has survived for years. Dredd is not a meathead action hero but a force of nature. Unrelenting and unbreakable in his dedication to the law, his human qualities seemed to have been drained out, leaving only his fascist-like justice. Karl Urban does an amazing job of making such a character compelling. Urban creates a supremely intimidating creature with Dredd. He is able is nail all the body movements and right tone of voice for any given situation. What’s more impressive is that he does this with his face covered for the entire runtime. Dredd’s face is completely covered by his helmet, except his mouth and jawline; the only emotive action he can make is to scowl. Urban‘s fierce intensity plays wonderfully against Olivia Thirlby’s naive Anderson.

Dredd brings some much-needed justice to the character. It doesn’t just want to present the simple action movie of the nineties, but a smart, brutal thriller that questions what it takes to bring justice to a land that is ready to tear itself apart.

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