By: Bryan Montgomery
Rating: 7 out of 10
If you had to point the finger at two films that destroyed the superhero genre in the 1990s, you need to go no further than Judge Dredd and Batman & Robin. The two were cheesy, uncaring and simply there for show and the box office revenue that came with it. Now that the Batman franchise has been successfully rebooted, the other duck of the 1990s has a chance to redeem itself. A brutal and uncompromising vision of a world gone mad, Dredd does more right than wrong and ends up being another solid reboot in our current state of mediocre attempts to rejuvenate franchises.
Dredd (Karl Urban) takes a rookie judge, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) on an assessment mission at Peach Trees, a residential building in “Mega City One”, a towering structure made in the new work, protected from the irradiated wasteland known as the “Cursed Land”. Dredd soon finds himself in over his head as Ma-Ma, a drug lord, attempts to kill the two judges to protect her ground.
What works out for Dredd is the fact that it does not take the route of so many reboots. Sure, the film is incredibly dark and gloomy, but at the same time it manages to embrace a character study structure that proves to be wildly entertaining. The concept of the Judges is interesting, men and women who have the right to be judge, jury and executioner, disposing justice whenever they see fit. It is a great concept, one that was not fully examined by the 1995 film, but luckily is explored in vivid detail in this reboot.
Urban makes for an amazing Dredd. He not only has the kick-ass nature to him, he also brings a great deal of humor to the film. A movie that surprisingly has as many laughs as gasps, Urban presents a Dredd that is not just violent but also insanely sharp-witted and cunning. Of course, watching Stallone play the character prior to seeing this movie would make just about anyone look cunning and exhuberent, but at least Urban can safely say that he did the character justice in this film.
Lena Headley plays an outstanding villain in Ma-Ma. She is lethal to the point of desperation, starting the film with a triple homicide that is simply put, disgusting. The length of her desperation hits a breaking point midway through the film and you start to see exactly what lengths she will go to to protect her operation; having her thugs fire three mini-guns into a civilian block in an effort to kill the judges.
Visually, the film takes a dark, gritty approach to the world of Mega City One, some may be put off by the low-rsolution, grainy picture although it does work very well given the tone of the film. At times the film is dark and difficult to make out what is happening, but those moments are few and far between. Although unquestionably a feast for the ears with a pounding soundtrack and all-encompassing auditory presence, especially in 3D this might be a film that is too dark for its own good.
What is going to put many people off though is the crucial plot point involving slow-motion. Mal-Mal controls the manufacture and distribution of a drug called “slo-mo”, a narcotic that slows down time to one-percent its normal speed. Throughout the film, the viewers see the effects of the drug in slowed-down sequences. The first several times, the effect is awesome but it gets old quick. By the end of the film, during a sequence in slow motion that lasts far too long you just want the film to move on.
Dredd re-invents the long-dormant franchise and reinvigorates it for a new audience. Fans of the franchise will love what the film has to offer. For a film that had no right to achieve legitimacy, Dredd manages to pull it off due to a fun story, strong lead and great action. Hopefully this if the first chapter of a franchise as fans will be glad to welcome Dredd back for another bout of disposable justice.