Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dredd (2012)

Director: Pete Travis
Notable Cast: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey 

Don't let those pesky box office 'flop' numbers sway you, "Dredd" is fucking awesome. I will state that I was skeptical about rebooting this franchise initially. I have a weird love of the original film featuring Sly Stallone in the titular role, but with some odd casting choices and very specific focuses to make this film 3D made me hesitate. Don't make my mistake, oh Blood Brethren, you need to immediately scroll to the bottom of this review and purchase your copy of "Dredd" before you even finish reading. No, seriously. Do that. "Dredd" is just so completely kick ass as an action film that you should stop reading right now and buy a copy.

When a series of murders happens at a housing block known as Peach Trees, the policing force is sent to investigate. They just so happen to send Judge Dredd (Urban), a legendary man of intense justice, and his new psychic partner Anderson (Thirlby) to take care of the issues there. What the two Judges discover is that the block is being run by Ma-Ma (Headey) as a cooking and distribution plant for a new drug called Slo-Mo. Now Ma-Ma has the entire building on lock down with no way out. So the Judges take a ballsy root of action to escape...go up to the top 200th floor and confront Ma-Ma for judgement.

Dredd. A man half in the dark...where he likes it.
There will be plenty of people that compare "Dredd" to "The Raid" due to its similar plot. Yes, the plot is similar, but the two films are completely different beasts in how they go about it. "Dredd" is definitely based on a comic book and some of the more outrageous elements are key indicators of that. Psychics, drugs that slow down time, and a viciously villainous baddie who confronts all of her obstacles with extreme violence make for a rather hard to digest plot. Yet, director Pete Travis does not take the colorful and somewhat tongue in cheek method that made the first "Judge Dredd" such a love it or hate it kind of film. In fact, he takes it the other direction. He darkens the plot. Makes it gritty. Jacks up the violence to 11. Hell, he even makes our 'hero' the anti-hero we all love in the cult world. This grounds the overarching concept and makes the audience feel like its less of a comic book film and more like the rated R action film we really wanted to see instead. It works like magic.

Hope she saved that bullet for herself.
Part of why the film works so well is the inspired casting. Instead of casting a recognizable face or name in the lead role "Dredd" opts for Karl Urban, a rough and tumble cult actor whom may not have the name recognition, but has the chops and aura to pull off the unlikable badassness of the title man. He does it admirably here in the film where the helmet is never removed from the character (a choice that I just reveled in) and scowling like it was going out of style. That and the supporting cast is just as good. Thirlby is a great stark contrast to Urban's Dredd (who ironically never wears a helmet) and Headey as the villain makes for in interesting concept with her scarred face and meth addict teeth.

Fire go boom.
As if to top off the cake of strong writing, direction, and casting - the action in "Dredd" is top notch. It's brutal and well shot making the most out of the key ingredients of Dredd (including a gun with different kinds of ammo activated by voice command) and it works well with the bleak art design of the film to maximize the carnage. Pete Travis even takes full advantage of the 3D idea by punctuating certain moments in 'bullet time' with the usage of the drug 'Slo-Mo.' This gives the film an almost avant garde feel at times, like an art house action film. This is the only film I've seen so far that makes me want to see it in 3D since I skipped out on that like I do with every film.

With this second golden age of action in full swing, it's great to know that even films that bomb in the box office can be as great as "Dredd." It's an inspired look at the Dredd story on film as it bites down on the dirty and mean spirit of the character and the world he occupies. The film is just top notch all the way around. A must see, must own, must watch repeatedly kind of film.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

You heard me. Must see, must own, must watch again and again. That means you should have taken my advice in the opening paragraph and already purchased your copy. Here's your second chance. Judgment's coming.

1 comment:

  1. Very fun and bloody, which makes it all the more entertaining and I can only wonder what they will do with the next installments of this series, if they can get there. Good review Matt.