Zechs passes judgement on Dredd. Is it guilty or worth to watch?
America is a wasteland save the area between Boston and Washington DC. There humanity tries to survive in the last known city known as Mega-City One. Crime is rampant. Enter the Judges: who are the judge, jury, and enforcers of the law of the land. One such judge known as Dredd (Karl Urban) has taken a rookie named Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) under his wing for a day to judge if she's worthy of becoming one of them. Unfortunately that day is going to be a long excruciating day. A triple murder bust turns into something more as the two Judges run afoul of the crime lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). Now it's a matter of survival as the two judges fight alone in an over two hundred story complex swarming with Ma-Ma's goons.
Based on the comics published by 2000 A.D. and created by John Wagner/Carlos Ezquerra, we're given another glimpse into this world in live action after seeing it previously in 1995 with Judge Dredd starring Sly Stallone as the title character. It was a muddled movie and was a failure at the box office. Much like how earlier this year Amazing Spider-Man had to deal with its awful predecessor Spider-Man 3 (2007), Dredd has an even worst time given it's dealing with a lesser know comic book character. Again, one must put the previous movie in the past and view this movie is its own beast. I must confess I'm not too familiar with the character myself, but going on that viewpoint I have to say this was one fine movie.
The performances are outstanding all around from top to down. Urban as Dredd exudes bad ass and a hardened soldier. For him, an event like this is just another day at the office. There isn't much character evolution on his part, but given what kind of role this is, we're not supposed to be looking at a bleeding heart, nor one you should expect to change. Again, a day like this is just a regular day at the office. Dredd is a force of the natural order.
For those looking for the true arc that belongs to the rookie Judge Anderson played by Olivia Thirlby. This is her first day on the job, and worse it's her final “exam” at being a full-time judge. Thirlby plays the role accordingly as a naïve youth with a black/white view of the world. The reasons for her final chance at being a judge are outlined early. Anderson has a special talent; she can read minds. Due to that talent alone she's given this chance. We see her evolution as a by-the-book rookie to the eventual outcome of being a Judge. She won't be the same character as she started off at the beginning of the film. The journey itself is fascinating and the movie pulls no punches, going straight for the gut several times. Being a judge isn't an easy job. It's a very expandable one as demonstrated via the final act of the film.
Then there's Lena Headey as Ma-Ma. The role is just another notch to a long variety of ones that just show how good of an actor she is. Ma-Ma is a ruthless fiend from the moment we see her. We get small glimpses of some dimension, though much like Dredd, she's there to be a bastard. I'm very curious to know who the jacket was on her wall. Was it the pimp that lorded over her and started her criminal career? Regardless, you're meant to hate Ma-Ma and relish the comeuppance she gets.
That's the greatest plus I can say of this movie. It acts like a 80s action film. The clichés are abound all around from the “main character” down to the “antagonist” of the piece. However, the violence is two-fold done in a darkly humorous and thrilling tone to deadly serious. There's a good balance between the two. I can't really find anything to nitpick or say negative against the film given the genre it has. Yes, we've seen all of this before though usually we get an element of negative or tracked on to go with the movie. There isn't any of those problems in this film. No forced romances or character revelations. Everything feels natural in Dredd.
That said, for a movie that's made on a low budget, it gets the job done with some seriously memorable action sequences and violence. You'll be remembering this film by the end. So I'm going to give some props to director Pete Travis and Alex Garland for setting up this world and crafting it. If this is what Dredd is like in the comics, I might have to take a peek at IDW's upcoming Judge Dredd series and trades of the past. The film is that good at being newbie friendly if this truly is what the world is like for Dredd.
In a year swarming with live action comic book adaptations, Dredd cuts through all of them with an entertaining experience from beginning to end. I cannot say if it's a good translation from comic to movie. What I can state is this was a highly entertaining movie that made me easily forget the previous misgivings based on the universe. To note as well, unlike other films that seemed forced, the 3-D technology is VERY well done in the film. You truly appreciate the film more via this format though no doubt seeing it in standard is just as good. To any comic book or action movie fans, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice on missing this film. Dredd is an exciting experience from beginning to end. You won't be disappointed at all with it. You'll come out of the film judging it justly at being rarity nowadays in America cinemas: a good entertaining film from start to finish. So yeah I JUDGE IT PERFECT. One of the best movies of this year that I've seen.
5 out of 5
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About the Author - Zechs
Zechs is the lord and master of The Toy Shed, Character Spotlight, and Cartoon Reviews. He's also an aspiring comic book writer trying to get some of his works published on the Outhouse. If there's any greater quality to Zechs, it's that he's an avid fan of comic book characters and would defend them to the bitter end against the companies that use them wrongly. Zechs walks the lonely path in Chicagoland area.
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