johnlink ranks DREDD (2012)

Ended up sick (again) with a cold the last few days. Was supposed to spend my Saturday evening at a good friend’s birthday outing. Instead, I curled up on the couch with a short movie and was in bed by 10:00. These are the sort of exciting weekends that happen at the Lincoln household. Anyway, here are some of my thoughts on DREDD…


I watched DREDD (2012) on 3.22.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

DREDD had a heck of a hill to climb. The mid 90s brought us the Sylvester Stallone movie JUDGE DREDD, a comedic action take on the more serious comic book character. Nobody liked it. The director didn’t even like it. Stallone had no idea about the source material (putting him in the same place I am) and decided it needed to be funnier. He managed to alienate the film’s potential audience while not making a good enough action-comedy to win over those oblivious to the Dredd universe.

Enter Director Pete Travis and Writer Alex Garland. They wanted to make a better Dredd story, one which kept to the universe of the source material while still being accessible to an action and sci-fi crowd on its own merit. After taking a few cracks at various stories, they decided to tell a more one episode tale of Dredd (Karl Urban) and a rookie psychic cop named Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) as they go after the matriarch of a 200 story drug infested high-rise, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). The story works as a way of introducing a character without feeling the need to do a big comic booky origin story.

We are dropped into this future desolate world where crime reigns and the new cops, called Judges, have carte blanche to sentence and execute convicts on the streets. This helps marginally since, we learn, they only have the manpower to respond to 6% of reported crimes. Rather than going for the cliche dark world of BLADE RUNNER, the film DREDD chooses to start in the daytime which only devolves into darkness when the two hero Judges get locked into the aforementioned high rise by barricade doors.

The drug of choice, a new one, is called Slo-Mo. It makes those who inhale it immediately feel as if they are moving at 1/100th normal speed. This drug is being sold by the monopolistic Ma-Ma. The Judges’ call originally start as an investigation into three deaths with ties to the drug, and quickly becomes a raid on Ma-Ma’s gang in the building. The action is brutally violent and goes for shock (especially in its original 3D form which, by all reports, was a solid 3D experience). The film transfers into it’s own slow motion to show the effects of slo-mo several times through the course of the movie. Perhaps this effect is used a couple times too many as a way to enhance action by showing bullets ripping through flesh in extreme detail. Despite its overuse, the effect works very well. Some of the best visual moments work on an aesthetic level when the film bumps into this mode. Travis presents violence as art, a questionable moral choice perhaps, but one which finds attempts to find beauty in the grotesque.

Karl Urban never removes his mask, as is the tradition of the comic. You might recognize the lower half of his face from such roles as Bones from the STAR TREK remakes and the lead in the new Fox show Almost Human. He does fine as DREDD, though he isn’t asked to do anything but snarl and growl. There is no nuance in the acting at any level. The rookie cop is the traditional rookie-with-a-heart-of-gold. Thirlby does an admirable job but doesn’t have much to work with. Headey, similarly, is a villain made from scars and violence. The simplicity of these characters doesn’t work against it, per se, but it also limits what it can do.

As an action and science fiction film, DREDD works just fine. The action is relentless, and it is nicely counterpointed by the slow-motion scenes which are mostly timed correctly. There is a nice attention to detail in the landscape, and the visuals are surprisingly strong at several moments. If the writing and the acting doesn’t star here, that is quite alright. We’re talking about a lead character who never takes his mask off anyway. The movie doesn’t particularly care about its characters. They are vessels by which we see extreme action and violence. If that’s your thing, this is a film which does it well.





~ by johnlink00 on March 23, 2014.

6 Responses to “johnlink ranks DREDD (2012)”

  1. While I normally am not a fan of films of this nature, I rather enjoyed this one as just pure mindless fun. The slo-mo parts were my favorite (although agreed it was used a little too much especially with the bullets ripping through flesh thing). It was an easy watch though. Good review!

  2. The style was cool and all, but I felt like a little something was missing in the action-department. Still, a lot better than the Sly-version. Good review John.

  3. I had a load of fun with this, primarily because I wasn’t really expecting much from it. I really hope they go ahead and make a sequel.

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