ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT MOVIES.IE
In a violent future, where much of the former US is uninhabitable, police have the authority to act as jury, executioner and Judge. One such Judge – Dredd (Karl Urban) – teams with rookie cop, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) to take down Ma-Ma (Lena Heady), the head of a drug dealing gang.
This version of Judge Dredd has been in the works for over six years. Written by Alex Garland of Sunshine fame, the movie is based on the graphic novel characters created by Carlos Ezquerra and John Wagner.
Karl Urban, perhaps best known for his work on Star Trek and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, takes on the title role. Well, his chin does anyway. Urban never removes his helmet – much to the delight of many fans – and he gives an ego free performance. Dredd may be hardened by the world that he inhabits, but underneath it all, he is still a man, and one who grimaces at the carnage he inflicts. Olivia Thirlby has been rather quiet since her breakout role in Juno; as the inexperienced, psychic rookie (what a combination!) she creates a character that is tough on the outside, but still is sweet and likeable on the inside.
Lena Heady has proven with her chilling role in Game of Thrones that she is more than able to bring the evil, and this is precisely what she does throughout Dredd. It is her gang that mobile against the judges, and it is she that is calling the shots. This may not be a challenge for Heady, but she still does it well. Perhaps the most colourful and memorable performance comes from Domhnall Gleeson as Ma-Ma’s techie. Here is a character that, like the others, we know little about, but Gleeson brings a vulnerability and gentleness to his character. This reminds the audience that these people may be driven to extreme measures, but they are still people after all.
Director Pete Travers leans hard on the action button throughout the movie, and films the violence with a care bordering on glee. This is a hyper-violent film and, thanks to the narcotic of the film slowing down the user’s brain to 1% of its normal speed, the violence is given slowed down prominence. People are skinned, bullets plough through skin and many people fall to their deaths, all of which is filmed with a careful and dedicated attention to the most gruesome detail. Alex Garland stayed true to the source material by not giving the characters a back story or Dredd a face, which makes Dredd hard to fathom at times, but keeps the pace of the film zipping along nicely.
The problem is that we have seen this before, and not too long ago. The Raid, Gareth Evans’s fantastic action film from earlier this year, tells a similar story – albeit without the futuristic setting – so Dredd and Anderson slaughtering their way through floor after floor of henchmen suddenly feels familiar. If more time had passed between the two films, this may not have been an issue, but with The Raid so fresh in audiences’ minds, it is hard to shake the comparison.
In all, Dredd is dark, dirty and violent and packs a hell of a punch. It’s just a shame that the story feels so familiar.