Get out your future guns and trippy drugs, we're reviewing Dredd!
In a dystopian future ruled by chaos, the only law around is the Judges. Judge Dredd(Karl Urban) is tasked with showing a rookie Judge, Anderson(Olivia Thirlby), who's a powerful Psychic, the ropes. When they get called in to investigate a multiple homicide at a slum called Peace Trees, they find themselves locked in a war with a the violent drug lord Ma-Ma(Lena Heady) who's the dealer of a new drug that changes the way the brain sees time. Can they make it out alive?
Dredd is a super violent R-rated action movie based on the super violent comic 2000 AD. And while I can't say how close it is to the comic having never read it, I can say it's a huge amount of violent fun and much better than the 90's Stalone version.
The biggest reason this works so well is Karl Urban. I may be a bit biased since I think he's awesome in every role he's in(Star Trek, Red, Doom), but he plays a perfect gravely voiced badass and never once takes off his helmet. Sure he has a permanent scowl and sounds like he takes voice lessons from Bale's Batman, but it all works. Lena Heady is as well a creepy psychopath. You might not be able to tell she's Cerci from Game of Thrones at first glance because of the great make-up and totally different accent. Olivia Thirlby is also good and it's fun to see her character's evolution throughout the movie.
Let's deal with the elephant in the room: This is pretty much the same premise of The Raid. Cops go into a druglord-rulled building and have to fight their way out with crazy over-the-top violence. Thankfully, that's where the comparison stops. Not that I'd hate it if it was straight wall-to-wall action, but there's enough crazy bits to keep the slow bits from popping out too much.
When I say the action is over the top, I mean the action is R-rated blood and guts crazy ultra-violence over-the-top. If you're at all squeamish at the sight of blood and gore, this is not the movie for you. If you DO like over-the-top action, this just became your number one must-see! This is crazy uber-violent. Bullets going through skulls in slow-motion, people doing faceplants from 200 floors up, faces literally melting...you name it. I could have done without some of the attempted rape and mind-rape, but I feel like it could have been a lot worse than it was. I can't really judge how bad it is. What I'm saying is there's stuff there, but it's not nearly at Dragon Tattoo levels.
The movie has some gorgeous visuals. This may be the only movie where there's actually a narrative reason to have all this super pretty slow-mo. It's super stylized and super fun to watch. I enjoyed the futuristic vision they presented. It feels like a dilapidated version of the world we have now, with shiny new future bits tacked on here and there. The guns, suits, and environments are all cool enough that I'd be interested in seeing more movies in this universe. I didn't see it in 3D so I can't say whether or not it's worth it, but there were enough 3d-esque and slow-mo shots that I'd say it's worth it to find out.
The soundtrack is phenomenal. It sounds like a dirty futuristic industrial rave party. Paul Leonard-Morgan did a fantastic job composing and I'd highly recommend picking it up if you liked the soundtracks from Tron or Hanna.
The story is...half cool and half cliche. it's interesting seeing Anderson go through this evolution as she learns what it takes to be a judge, the lengths she has to go to and what that means for her and society. She's struggling with trying to change society by being a judge, while Dredd is reserved to the idea that this is a job; it's just all he can do. All he can do is stop as much crime as he can and keep the city from going into complete chaos. It's also interesting seeing her psychic powers and how that effects her and the people who see her. And all that's fairly interesting. But then the story takes some pretty obvious turns from every other action cop movie. You know where the story is going. It doesn't take away from the movie, but doesn't really add anything either. Then there are a couple of moments which generally don't make sense, especially towards the end. But then, if you're coming just for the crazy future shooting you probably won't be too bothered by it.
Overall Dredd is a surprisingly great movie. I think with the overrun of remakes we've had the past couple of years(didn't we also have a Total Recal remake? What happened with that?), we don't expect much from a reboot. It's a delight when something comes along that actually improves on the original. Dredd's got a lot of great over-the-top action, and if you're into futuristic or violent popcorn flicks, you'll get a kick out of it.
THE GOOD: Super violent, great visuals, great cast, especially Karl Urban, nice atmosphere and future tech, fun and interesting story, great soundtrack.
THE BAD: Might be too violent for some, some attempted rape stuff, not as much action as The Raid, story is a bit cliche, some bits don't make sense.
THE VERDICT: $$$$ See it! It's super violent movie fun and well-worth the price of admission.
MOVIES LIKE IT: Punisher: War Zone, The Raid, Judge Dredd, Equilibrium, The Matrix, The Expendables 2
ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: Dredd and Anderson bust into a room full of druggies and drug lords, a few of which are taking Slo-Mo. The scene is almsot entirely in beautiful colorful slow-motion as they rip the thugs to shreads, bullets going through their bodies at 1% speed with blood gushing everywhere. You just found out if you want to see this movie if at the end of that sentence you either went, "Gross!" or "Hell yeah!"