Jan 21, 2013

Movie Review: Dredd

In a dystopian future in the drug-addled, violent Mega-City One, police serve as judge, jury, and executioner, hence their official title of "Judge". Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is a veteran B.A.M.F. who is assigned new recruit Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who has no business even getting the opportunity other than one special trait. In a city with 17,000 crimes reported daily, Dredd and Anderson just happen to respond to a triple murder at the city's most powerful drug den, run by psycho-kingpin, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey).

The casting for Dredd couldn't have been better. Lena Headey plays a vicious crime boss to a T, and anyone who knows her as Cersei Lannister from HBO's TV series, Game of Thrones should know that full and well. Olivia Thirlby is a young up-and-comer who really puts forth 100% into her role as Cassandra Anderson, making you feel for the character and see her as full-rounded. Along with casting choice Karl Urban who has a burgeoning film career as of late himself but isn't a big household name yet, I think it was the right path rather than get someone known for their Hollywood Blockbusters who don't have as much to prove and may have phoned it in for such a small budgeted role. One of the best parts of the Dredd character is that he never removes his helmet, which if played by a bigger name might have been a point of contractual contention. Typically the bigger the name, the more they expect face-time.

Story-wise, it's a great point to make Dredd under his helmet the entire time. Spider-Man, Iron Man, Batman, all of the other masked crime fighters spend plenty of time on-screen without their mask to demonstrate the man behind the symbol. Dredd says right in the trailer, "I am the law," which is beautifully demonstrated by his unwavering conviction to conformity and to being a Judge. Anderson on the other hand is the dynamic character, contrast to Dredd's static character - individual, unique, and ever-growing. The plot, while used a year before in the Indonesian martial arts film, The Raid: Redemption still works great under the big American special effects machine.

Visually, the whole film is astonishing. Sure, you get the explosions and fiery pyrotechnics you expect from an action film, but utilizing the plot device of the drug Slo-Mo that makes the brain perceive time has slowed down, you get some really beautiful shots of just little things happening. And when people are on Slo-Mo while big things are happening - wow!

Overall, Dredd was a really fun action film. Great characters, great cast, great directing (looking at you, Pete Travis), and great visual effects. The run-time is a breezy hour and a half, and the only thing that could have possibly improved the entire film is a better ending. When Dredd finally meets with Ma-Ma it wound up a little anti-climactic, but others may feel differently. Still an excellent film that everyone should check out.

4.5 / 5