Dear Dredd,

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.

Karl Urban as the ever-helmeted Judge 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.

Olivia Thirlby as rookie Judge Anderson.

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

Rick

7 comments on “Dear Dredd,”

  1. Dan O'Neill says:

    Not as action-packed as it should have been, but still a fun and entertaining movie with a dirty look to it. Nice review Rick.

    1. Ric says:

      Thanks for stopping by and for the Kudo! It restored some faith in the art of adaption

  2. Fogs says:

    LOL. You’re vying for title of “World’s Biggest Dredd Fan”, huh Rick?
    It was excellent, I wont deny. I had a lot of fun with it. It has a great tone, and is really consistent with it. The action sequences are tons of fun, too.
    I wish it had done better at the box office, so that we could have a little higher hope for a sequel…

    1. Wait til you hear our OtE podcast on the film. It’s a massive Dredd lovefest. Also Rick gives your RE5 review a shout out.

    2. Ric says:

      Yes the box office is the shame in this films case. I was heartened that it was vastly superior than the first go round! Have to love those films that surprise you!

  3. Ilker Yücel says:

    “Authentic.”
    That’s the word that caught me. Having been a fan of the Judge Dredd comics for years (shortly before the abysmal Stallone film), it was nice to see the trailers and be given the hints that the filmmakers were actually devoted to capturing the atmosphere of the books’ setting.
    As well, hearing about Karl Urban’s dedication to staying true to Dredd’s unwavering sense of brutal justice and never taking the helmet off (and since he’s not yet disappointed me in any film I’ve seen him in), and knowing Lena Heady’s quality as an actor… I did my best not to have any expectation higher than, “It can’t be worse than the Stallone adaptation.”
    Having yet to see the film, I can only say that it is refreshing to hear the word “authentic” in reference to Dredd – to now have confirmation from an opinion I respect telling me that it stays true to its knitting… it’s a comfort and a relief and I can’t wait to see the movie now.
    Great article, Rick. Thank you.

    1. FilmRic says:

      I am very pleased to be of service. As I have mentioned adaptations can be mercurial proposition and one thing is for sure about this film is there is no mistaking that much of its magic comes from doing it for the love.

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