Outside of the quality of the movie itself, Dredd carries with it the unfortunate stigma of being the ultimate evidence for Hollywood that they should no longer make R rated action movies. We hardly ever get them any more as it is, a fact that you can find a great deal of consistent bitching about all over the internet, and then when we finally get one (and spoilers, a really good one no less) nobody goes to see it! I mean why go see that when there’s a generic, shitty horror movie playing right next door right? So the R rated action flops and the PG-13 horror movies continue strong, which will definitely help to shape Hollywood’s priorities in the coming years.
Of course the real tragedy of the whole thing, as I mentioned above, is that Dredd is a damn fine action movie and deserves far, far more attention than it received.
My memories of the original Stallone Judge Dredd are very minimal. I know he spent most of the movie technically not a judge, there was a flying car chase where Rob Schneider never shut the fuck up, and that’s really it. Oh and it was terrible. I remember that as well. It was one of a few movies where you hear they are making a remake and can’t be too upset because they would have to try pretty hard to fuck it up more than the original (though Street Fighter pulled that feat off so who knows). During production it sounded like they were making all the right moves. They were staying true to the comics (which admittedly I am very unfamiliar with overall), Dredd would remain a judge and in his helmet for the entire duration of the movie, and of course, this movie would be R rated as fuck. Advance word was extremely positive, with a good long span of time where Dredd maintained a perfect 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. It seemed they were on the right track and, yeah I kind of already spoiled it but they done good by Judge Dredd.
The plot is coincidently very similar to this year’s The Raid. Dredd and his rookie partner (Olivia Thirlby, who I spent the whole movie trying to place only to later find out she was the friend in Juno all growed up) respond to a homicide call where three people have been skinned and dropped from the top of a building. Turns out the perpetrator is Mama (Lena Headey) who is also responsible for the manufacturing and distribution of a new drug called Slowmo, which gives the illusion that time is passing by at 1% its normal speed. After arriving, Mama locks down the building and gives the order for anyone and everyone to help hunt down the judges. Commence shooting of many faces.
Staying true to their word, at no point does Dredd appear without his helmet, which makes it no easy task for Karl Urban in the role since all we see is his mouth for the entirety of the movie. Sure the role doesn’t require much from him but he still does well, spending nearly the entire running time with an exaggerated scowl and tossing out some good one liners that lean far more toward badass than corny. Thirlby also does well as the rookie who really has the only character arc out of anyone. Lena Headey makes for a good villain, ruthless but never over-the-top.
Dredd isn’t quite what I would call wall-to-wall action but what’s there is well shot and, best of all, easily comprehended. This movie tosses the whole shaky cam trend to the side and decides to go for this new fangled approach where you can actually see and understand what is happening. Hopefully others will catch on and start going a similar route as it turns out movies are better when you have a sense of what your eyes are actually looking at. Blatant sarcasm aside, I also wouldn’t say there are any sequences that stand-out as being the action highlight (with the possible exception of a turret sequence around the halfway mark), but it’s quality is consistent and it never slows down.
Then we have the violence - oh lord the violence. This is one of the rare action movies that is not only rated R, but more than earns that rating. There’s no language or nudity, but what there is is plenty of bad guys being dismissed in gruesome and often surprisingly creative fashions. Sure you get plenty of bullets in faces, but how often do you get smashed in Adam’s apples or dudes with no skin being thrown off buildings in slow motion? Not nearly enough is the answer you’re looking for here. It’s gratuitous and over the top, but man is it ever fun.
There are all sorts of details I appreciated about Dredd. The fact that slow motion is worked into the actual story and not just in there to make things more stylish. The fact that there is absolutely nothing resembling romantic interest between our two leads. They are simply partners sent to handle a bad situation and nothing more. The fact that as a character, Dredd has not changed or grown at all really by the end of the story. He has his moment involving Thirlby but aside from that, he’s the same guy he was when the movie began. I also appreciated that the 3D is done well, something most movies don’t seem to strive for, usually being satisfied with “whatever it’s there isn’t it?”
As I write this, Dredd is now officially out of the top 10 after only it’s second weekend and I imagine by this time next week will hardly be playing anywhere. I have to imagine this is on track to become one of the biggest box office failures of all time, certainly of the year. That is a goddamn shame and it completely baffles me that it has been such a disaster. I’m guessing your window to see it in a theatre is rapidly closing but please please please see this when it comes out on DVD. It’s well worth your time and might be the last R rated action movie we get now in a good long while. Ok well I just thought of three that are coming up but still, see Dredd damn it! What is the matter with you!?