*** (out of 5)
September 21, 2012
Karl Urban as JUDGE DREDD
Olivia Thirlby as ANDERSON
Lena Headey as MA-MA
Directed by: Pete Travis
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
First of all, let’s cleanse our palate. Take all memory of the 1995 film “Judge Dredd” with Sylvester Stallone, and repress it into the deepest regions of your brain, as you would childhood abuse. Any remaining memories should be soothed by watching the more fun and infinitely more watchable Stallone sci-fi actioner “Demolition Man” again.
Now that we’ve gotten rid of that blight on the planet, let’s talk about “Dredd.”
Based on the fringe comic book series, “Dredd” is about a futuristic police force whose officers act not just as peacekeepers, but as judge, jury and (if necessary) executioners to dispense immediate justice on the streets. Dredd (Karl Urban) is one of the most notorious Judges, and he’s given a rookie named Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) to train on the job. On a murder call to a massive high-rise apartment building, they stumble into a drug cartel, which declares war on the Judges. Trapped inside, Dredd and Anderson must fight for their lives and also try to take down the vicious kingpin, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey).
I’ve never read the Judge Dredd comic books, but I remember hearing fans of the series rage about that awful 1995 adaptation of it. (Damn it! I was supposed to have repressed those memories.)
Anyway, I have also heard the fans get extremely excited about this new “Dredd.” It’s more true to the original source material, aiming squarely for an ultra-violent R rating rather than a mainstream PG-13. Also, bucking the Hollywood trend of the studios demanding to see the faces of the stars, Karl Urban never takes off his helmet in “Dredd,” which is a major thing in the comics, apparently.
Much like “The Expendables 2,” “Dredd” is very comfortable as a bloody action flick. The big difference is that “The Expendables 2” was shot so it could be released as PG-13 whereas “Dredd” is shamelessly embracing the violence and twisted elements that make for an R-rated film. It’s definitely not for the kids, showing brutal violence and mutilation, depicting serious drug use and swerving into the realms of sexual assault.
But that’s okay. This movie isn’t meant for kids. It’s an adult action flick, so there’s nothing wrong with the brutality seen on the screen.
Along with the cool action and explosive (and sometimes humorous) violence, “Dredd” has a slick production design that doesn’t fall completely into cliche like “Total Recall” did earlier this summer. It also has a fantastic soundtrack that serves as a bit of a throwback to the digital music from the 80s
“Dredd” is not without its flaws, though. I enjoyed the film, but even as a huge supporter or 3D, I didn’t find the effects that necessary. There’s moments that look cool, in particular when the new designer drug “slo-mo” is used and people and objects float slowly through the air. However, these are overly gimmicky shots, and the action violence doesn’t take full advantage of the multi-dimensional format.
There’s also a plot point which involves Anderson being a mutant psychic. I’m not sure if this sort of thing was found often in the original comics, but this element reeked of cheesy 90s filmmaking. If only that was put into the aforementioned “Total Recall,” where it would have felt more at home.
Still, “Dredd” is a lot of fun, especially for the fan of shoot-em-up movies with plenty of R-rated violence.