Dredd

Director: Pete Travis.
Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, and Tamer Burjaq
Distributor: Icon Films
Runtime: 95 mins. Reviewed in Oct 2012
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Strong violence, blood and gore and drug use

This sci-fi movie is based on the British comic strip, “Judge Dredd” which was created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra. It is set in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic America, and is a remake of a 1995 movie, “Judge Dredd”, starring Sylvester Stallone, which tried disappointedly to capture the comic strip’s high energy voltage. The comic strip satirizes the excesses of America, and the film has been produced especially for 3D viewing, although it is also distributed in 2D format.

All of the action takes place in one place, Mega-City One, which lies on the East Coast of North America. America is a wasteland, and Mega-City is populated by violent criminals who rule the streets of the vast metropolis. People are crammed into gigantic city-blocks, tension is everywhere, and crime is rampant. As the film describes it, Mega-City “is convulsing, choking, (and) breaking under its own weight”.

The only order in Mega-City comes from a team of urban policemen, who act as judges, jury, and instant executioners. Dredd (Karl Urban) is the most feared of all the Judges, and he takes on the task of ridding the city of a powerful drug lord who lurks in a part of the city where even the police are reluctant to go. Members of the drug cartel live in a 200-story vertical slum controlled by an ex-prostitute, drug lord, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her ruthless body guard (Tamer Burjaq). The disfigured Ma-Ma is committed sadistically to holding onto the control of her empire by any means.

Ma-Ma is in charge of the distribution of the drug “Slo-Mo” which allows anyone who ingests it to experience reality at a fraction of the normal speed. Dredd infiltrates Ma-Ma’s strong-hold, and he takes with him a young police-woman, Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who is being assessed for suitability to be a Judge, and who has powerful psychic abilities due to a genetic mutation caused by nuclear fall-out. Dredd is nearly always helmeted, drenched in blood, and you never ever get to see his whole face. Both he and Cassandra work their way up Ma-Ma’s building as Ma-Ma progressively locks its floors down. Dressed to inspire fear, the combatants move in violent sequences, which leave nothing to the imagination.

This film is full of gore, and it bears a very strong resemblance to a movie released this year under the title of “The Raid”, which is a Japanese martial-arts movie. Both films are of similar bent. This is the more complex movie in plot, but both films are intensely violent, and bloody action occurs relentlessly. The sci-fi context to the movie ensures fast action, but it is always linked to killing and the spilling of blood. Slow-motion sequences emphasize the intensity of the aggression.

The movie has been made to communicate high energy and it does this with gusto, but it misses out on the satirical barbs lying in the comic strip through the extent of its focus on violence. The fighting is given a novel touch by the ability of Anderson to use her psychic abilities to reveal characters’ thoughts and intended actions.

The film makes vivid use of the 3D-format, which is especially effective in the film’s drug sequences. These scenes are captured in bright colours, high-resolution close-ups, and slow motion. At the end of it all, there is police corruption, and Ma-Ma’s building emerges as almost a character in the movie by itself. Its foreground, background and walls stand menacingly over those who are forced to live within it.

This is a movie that is very uncomfortable to watch. It moralizes incessantly about the nature of justice, but almost everything about it is geared to communicate the worth and power of human vengeance at any cost.

The film misrepresents entirely what the virtue of justice is all about.


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