It’s surprising that my encounter with you starts off with a very rare neutral expectation. Of late, my disdain for the myriad, mediocre adaptations from other mediums has grown to legendary and epic proportions! But here Karl Urban’s avowal to play Dredd with commensurate respect, and attention to detail in the lead up marketing of this film, silenced my ever present suspicion.
I didn’t see this in 3D and feel glad that I didn’t. Obviously, the futuristic slo-mo drug made for ideal visual passages that would excel with 3D, but from my growing revelry early on at the utter dank, gritty nature of this film, I found I didn’t need or have desire for the eye candy. All I had eyes for was Dredd.
Of course, many speculated at the filmmaker’s cability to portray Mega City One with the right sense of decay. This even more importantly includes the Peach Trees slum mega projects. But I found the environment to be like everything in this film; authentic. When Dredd opens the film with a vehicle judgment on three perps, the tone is set right away. And that tone is set to ultra violence. When he gets the call to take special rookie Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) out for assessment, with her random pick of a triple homicide at the aforementioned Peach Trees, the stage is set to kick this film into high gear.
About this time we meet the human reaper; Ma-ma. This antagonist – portrayed brilliantly by a scarred, dead-eyed, Lena Heady – is just as heinous as you could imagine a psychopathic dystopian drug lord to be. She establishes her badassness by tossing the three original hoodlums over the balcony of the 200th floor at the beginning of our foray. When we see the mutant mind skills rookie-Judge Anderson has at her disposal, it hints that this extra ability may be just what saves these Judges lives.
When Karl Urban pronounces his dooms and warnings it is backed with an unwavering total commitment to serving the law and dispensing justice in the quickest most direct and brutal manner possible. In this he IS Dredd, and Dredd is him. He is everything he said he would be and more in this very rigid iconic character. He never takes the helmet off, ever, while Anderson – needing to have her head unencumbered – never wears hers. It lends a visceral dichotomy to the proceedings and I wholly approve. With this pairing I soon realize that Dredd is the immovable object counterpoint to her fluid humanity in motion. As things escalate and Ma-ma locks down the whole building in order to ensure the Judges’ annihilation, with 100-to-2 odds, it is their unique pairing of skills that keeps them alive.
Of course the rain of destruction and mayhem via Dredd’s rock solid tactics, high tech ammo, and unwavering experience is a sight to behold. But additionally, it is also director Pete Travis that bends a keen eye to detail that turns the violence into a slick and quite cool exercise in great scene dynamics and cinematography.
If all the accolades I have heaped onto this film already weren’t enough, it’s a subtle shift in attitude mid-film where Dredd stuns a couple of young perps when he could just as well as killed them and Anderson steps up to not only ice a major henchman but also exercises her badass-ness while refusing to let her partner down.
The single word utterance at the end is the cherry on top and Anderson’s reaction is classic. As you knew it would be. As the old saying goes ‘The King is Dead, Long Live the King.’
I think my response to a query from a young, eager theater worker as I walked out and he was waiting to go in sums it up best. When he asked, “How good was it?” I said great. When he asked “How great?” I said, “As good as it gets. Let’s just say; Stallone’s Dredd wouldn’t make a good pimple on the ass of Karl Urban’s Dredd!” We both smiled as I walked away.
He would soon find out what I just learned; There is a new film badass in movies and God help anyone that goes up against him.
All Hail Dredd