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Dredd

UK / South Africa / USA / India 2012
produced by
Alex Garland, Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich, Stuart Ford (executive), Deepak Nayar (executive), Adi Shankar (executive), John Wagner (consulting), Erin Gavin (consulting) for DNA Films, Peach Trees, Rena Films/Reliance
directed by Pete Travis
starring Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, Wood Harris, Domhnall Gleeson, Warrick Grier, Jason Cope, Rakie Ayola, Langley Kirkwood, Edwin Perry, Karl Thaning, Michele Levin, Joe Vaz, Scott Sparrow, Nicole Bailey, Junior Singo, Luke Tyler, Daniel Hadebe, Francis Chouler, Deobia Oparei, Tamer Burjaq, Shoki Mokgapa, Desmond Lai Lan, Marty Kintu, Rachel Wood, Patrick Lyster, Andile Mngadi, Porteus Xandau, Emma Breschi, Travis Snyders, Chad Phillips, Yohan Chun, Eden Knowles
screenplay by Alex Garland, based on comicbook characters created by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra, music by Paul Leonard-Morgan, special effects by Baseblack, MXFX Special Effects, Mark Roberts Motion Control, Milk Visual Effects, The Post Republic, visual effects by Prime Focus World

Judge Dredd

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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In a not-too-distant future, most of the US has been turned to parched land by a nuclear war, there's really only one city that remains, Mega City 1, but this stretches several states with one concrete building next to the other - and it's a hellhole, crime is rampant on the streets, gangwars are the new normal, and violence a form of communication. The only ones who stand for law and order are the Judges, officially funded officers who are judge, jury and executioner in one person and are actually supposed to uphold the law with extreme prejudice. The top Judge is Judge Dredd, known for following the rules to the letter without any unnecessary emotions - and today he's to assess Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a rookie the Chief Judge (Rakie Ayola) has not kicked off the program long ago because she's a mutant with extraordinary psychic abilities, on what's pretty much daily crimefighting routine. And Dredd even lets Cassandra pick the assignment, a triple murder on drugdealers in what's supposed to be the biggest hellhole inside the hellhole that's Mega City One, Peach Trees, a 200 floor highrise housing hundreds of thousands of residents, where drug kingpin Ma-Ma (Lena Headley) rules with an iron fist. Thanks to Cassandra's abilities, the two of them arrest one of the killers, Kay (Wood Harris) surprisingly quickly, but Ma-Ma really can't leave Kay in the hands of the Judges as he knows too much, so to make them stay she has her own private hacker (Domhnall Harris) hack into the building's computer and has it sealed tight by using some wartime defense, which means nobody can come in but more importantly nobody can get out. And once that's done, she declares Judge Dredd and his rookie free-for-all, and since the complex is full of shady characters, many want to get their hands on law enforcement for revenge. But Dredd isn't one who's easily captured let alone killed, and Cassandra usually has a slight edge over her opponents with her mindreading abilities, so they survive the primal wave of attack unscathed while taking many an enemy down. Ma-Ma on the other hand is always someone who ups the ante, be it cutting off the judges' escape route, then trying to mow them down with multiple machine guns or sending in a quartet of judges on her own paylist to get near enough to our heroes to take them out. With opponents that determined and also resourceful though, only one thing's utterly sure, that many a person will die in the crossfire ...

 

By 2012, the bane of remakes and re-boots was already in full swing, and many a classic genre movie or series was "re-invented" or "modernized" in an inferior way, sometimes even by the original creator (e.g. Ridley Scott "updating" Alien with Prometheus) - and then came Dredd, and over the earlier adaptation Judge Dredd from 1995 starring Sylvester Stallone, it's actually a vast improvement, as it sticks much closer to the source material, understands the comic's dry humour and sarcasm, doesn't shy away from the bloody bits, and gets the lead character right as a law-and-order monster. And what makes the film rather charming is its B-movie approach: It doesn't boast with too many unnecessary effects or fills each frame to the brim with shiny things, but gives us a dirty, believable world, and by limiting itself in locations, the story is as compact and stringent as needed to keep one glued to one's seat. That said though, Dredd's not perfect, basically its action scenes are merely functional rather than really exciting, the story, as stringent as it is, is a bit too straight-forward, and the characters do feel a bit hollow. But that said, it's still an enjoyable movie.

 

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