Saturday, 26 January 2013

Dredd (Film Review)

Go out and buy it. No seriously, if you’re vaguely aware of the character Judge Dredd and love action films then buy this DVD now. Especially if your TV has 3D capability because this is one of the few I’ve seen in which that gimmick is used this brilliantly. There is little to nothing bad that can be said about a film like this as its creators have streamlined it until there is no fat left and manage to completely leave the Sylvester Stallone film in the dust. And this is coming from someone who enjoyed that movie.

Set in the post-apocalyptic dystopia of Mega City One, a surviving metropolis built upon the radiation scarred remains of America, the film follows judges Anderson and Dredd. The former is a psychic rookie near to failing being given one final trial by Dredd, observing her in the field. Unfortunately her choice of crime to investigate, a triple homicide, leads them into direct conflict with the MaMa gang – a major new drug distributer. Trapped inside a city block with the gang their routine check quickly turns into a bloodbath as the body-count rises.

The first thing of note is that anything else trying to be a Dredd action film would have taken after the more exceptional comics arcs. The sort of ones in which there were ground-breaking adventures with consequences upon which the fate of the City or entire Earth depended. In this the conflict itself feels more down to earth, as absurd as that sounds with this sort of setting, which works in Dredd’s favour. Rather than clones, Judge coup d’etat or the Angel family, the gang warfare element makes the film feel like something you could see the protagonists’ facing week in week out. Entrenching the idea that, along with the looks at people’s lives, it serves as a glimpse into the everyday life of Mega City One itself.

While the characters are not the most compelling aspect of the story they are well fleshed out enough and not based completely upon stereotypes. As such they feel more like real people and this is only enhanced by the fact the script makes full use of every person it has on hand. This is only enhanced by the actors, especially Karl Urban who despite having only his mouth visible (someone listened to the problems with the last film) does a fantastic job at acting. The body language, mannerisms and overall attitude he presents himself with constantly makes you think this is Dredd. Never for one moment do you see the actor behind the mask. In much the same way Kelsey Grammar was Beast in X3 and Josh Brolin was Jonah Hex, the casting is pitch perfect. With the obvious difference being that Urban actually has a good script to work with.

Even ignoring Urban it feels like every person in the film was giving their all with what they had. Olivia Thirlby as Anderson has a definitively clear character arc of growth as she becomes more sure of herself and serves as an excellent foil for Dredd. The viciously pragmatic villain played by Lena Headey is someone who, while not given nearly enough scenes, presents herself extremely well as a gang leader keeping others in line with threats. Not to mention the unnamed tortured gang hacker played by Domhnall Gleeson and, well, everyone.

The action itself is surprisingly controlled for a film featuring gun-toting character like Judge Dredd. While this was definitely because of the limited budget, the way in which the battles are broken up into running skirmishes only helps to enhance the film’s pace. Occurring in exactly the right place and time to never make the film drag or for you to forget that the protagonists’ are effectively running a gauntlet. The highlight of this entire sequence is when the gang-members break out a trio of Vulcan cannons and proceed to almost saw the building in half as Dredd flees from their gunfire. Most are admittedly one sided beat-downs of fights but hey it’s an action film what do you expect. Each of these action scenes are near perfectly shot and at almost every point you can see how the angle, style and presentation could have easily made it a panel of a comic strip.

What is truly a high-point however is how the city itself is presented. While little of it is seen outside of the block, and the 1995 film did have a better handle on the more futuristic designs, the city’s architecture is brilliantly presented. Combining the look of heaving metropolis and brown dystopian environment in a way not seen since Blade Runner. Managing to remain grim but vibrantly colourful and interesting; never reducing it to the boring colourless look found so frequently within such fictional environments. The bright sunlight, mixture of neon colours makes it stand out and looks more like something you’d expect to find in 2000AD’s tales.

Is it perfect? Definitely not. There’s the odd visual goof which stands out and as mentioned before the film does show its budget more than once. What helps make you forgive these things though is that it avoids action film clichés of A-Team firing and plots requiring people to act like fools. This is without a doubt an excellently made film and does the source material real justice. As the opening said you definitely need to buy this one if you’re remotely interested and at the very least rent it for a one night viewing.

Dredd and all related characters and media are owned by DNA Films, IM Global, Reliance Entertainment, Entertainment Film Distributors and Lionsgate.


  1. Sounds awesome - I'm going to check it out as soon as I can, probably when the DVD comes down in price a bit - I wanted to go and see this in the cinema but I never got round to it in the end :(.

    1. Yeah I had the same problem, as did a lot of people going by it's sales figures. The only thing i'd warn you against is that it is 18 rated for good reason.