Sunday, July 6, 2014

Dredd


            Do you know what I think of when Independence Day happens? Violence. Based on the “Judge Dredd” comic strip from 2000 A.D the film Dredd is about a super cop known as Judge Dredd and his rookie partner Judge Anderson finding thugs and murdering them all, very cathartic stuff.  In the tradition of 80s action films like Die Hard and Terminator, Dredd is B-movie at heart with production values of a blockbuster but it has the added benefit of a strong setting and a very dynamic script. The film performs the near impossible task of making an arguably Fascist lead character sympathetic and it almost works.
            Dredd takes place in a future where crime is so vicious that the USA burned the Constitution in favor of a police state patrolled by Judges, which are policeman with the power to sentence and execute crooks on the spot. Feel free to comment about which part of that sentence that horrifies you the most but like every great anti-hero Judge Dredd has this intense charisma that is just magnetic. Played by Karl Urban, Judge Dredd is a cold, efficient killer that takes pride in his work and respects the law (as bizarre as it is) in such a way that is genuinely admirable.  The best character though is Judge Anderson, played by Olivia Thirlby, who may be a young and very sloppy rookie but is far from a dead weight. If anything, Anderson is the one character that could truly save the world whereas Dredd is just part of the un-empathetic status quo. In a way what makes them so interesting is everything seems so ordinary to them; the bleak setting alone would break Batman but the for Judges it is just a very productive day.
            Dark setting and characters aside, as an action film Dredd looks absolutely insane and tight.  Like The Raid, the film mostly takes place in one building as a set up for some obscenely creative violence.  The main course being some cool sci-fi guns that can carry some ridiculous types of ammunition, which leads to some hilarious moments of unexpected gore.  The film also contains some amazing slow motion shots. The slow motion is not in the same style as The Matrix or 300; if anything they are almost like still shots, which frame and establish single moments with nearly scientific levels of detail.  Slow motion shots tend to get flak for being over-utilized and it is refreshing to see filmmakers, like the special effects team on Dredd, take such a common trick and make it their own.
            As troubling as the Fascist subtext can be, Dredd is a B-movie at heart and is such grimy good fun that it is hardly problem, let alone a flaw. Judge Dredd is not a likable character but his discipline is respectable when compared to this violent and uncaring future setting. Like gourmet chocolate truffles, Dredd is so rich and satisfying that it is clear that great care was involved to make such fun junk food.  Actually, this film would make a great companion piece with Dirty Harry for a double feature. Harry Callahan was always tempted to take justice into his own hands and Dredd takes place in a world where that is legal and encouraged.  I wonder if Callahan would relish being Judge.


            (Dredd is available on DVD/Blu-ray, as well as for rent on Amazon Prime and Netflix. Do not confuse this film with Judge Dredd starring Sylvester Stallone, that film is all kinds of awful.  Finally, in spite of what the poster implies, 3D is not required to watch and enjoy this film. This review is solely based on watching it 2D.)

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