Now, I didn’t have any problems with the 1995 Judge Dredd film with Sylvester Stallone, but I guess Dreddheads everywhere were disappointed. And I can understand why, after seeing Dredd. The 1995 sorely missed the mark. But did this one nail it? Or is it another failed attempt?
Karl Urban (Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Riddick, Doom) stars as Judge Dredd, just one of the many law-enforcing badasses that roam Mega City One. They are the judge, the jury, and the executioner… which means they pass judgment and usually immediately execute those that are guilty. But in this crazy horrible world, that’s the only kind of law that criminals understand. It’s a routine day for him when he gets paired up with new recruit Anderson (played by Olivia Thirlby). Anderson failed the Judge test, but shows promise because of a radioactive fallout that gave her psychic abilities.
The villain in this story is a crime lord named Ma-Ma played by Lena Headey (Game of Thrones, Sarah Connor Chronicles, 300). When Dredd and Anderson end up in Ma-Ma’s territory, she locks down the 200-story slum that they’re inside and offers up a ransom to anyone that gets their heads. The next two hours is basically nonstop action as Dredd and Anderson take names.
This world is (sadly) a realistic one. There’s hardly any noticeable CGI work and they built most of their sets in Capetown, South Africa, which creates a landscape similar to District 9 which also utilized Capetown’s unique landscape. It’s gritty and hot and extremely compelling. Most of the movie takes place inside this 200-story building called The Peach Trees, which is not nearly as pleasant as it sounds. Every little detail from graffiti to storefronts is incredibly detailed and even helps to reveal more info about the world outside without heavy exposition.
Karl Urban nailed the performance of Judge Dredd. I’ve been a fan of Urban since Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers came out and it’s great to see him as the leading man. I was worried because the trailers made it look like he spit out corny one-liners the whole time, but when these lines are delivered in the context of the film, he pulls it off. Dredd is a badass that doesn’t see things in shades of gray but rather makes absolute judgment calls, which is a nice comparison to the much more relateable character of Anderson. We don’t know much about Dredd and there’s even a few cool moments where Anderson sees what he’s thinking but we aren’t privy to that information.
The action is pretty incredible as well. It doesn’t shy away from graphic violence, so this definitely isn’t a kids’ film. Leave them at home. You’ll see some crazy stuff (and I only saw it in 2D, I can only imagine the 3D effects). So, if you have a light stomach, maybe consider another option when you head to the movies.
Both Thirlby and Headey do some great work as well. I didn’t even recognize Headey, after just seeing her as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones. The long blond hair is gone and replaced with a chaotic short brunette cut and her face is littered with scars and burns. Thirlby also did a great job bringing a human element to the story, actually reacting to these crazy events. Dredd is on a mission and doesn’t stop to think about, but it’s cool to watch Anderson struggle with gunning down a room of people, even though they are “bad guys.”
What doesn’t work?
Some of the violence was unbelievable due to some shotty CGI work. At one point, a bullet tore through a guy’s cheek and it took me out of the movie when I realized how fake it looked. It was a little too exaggerated and in your face, but lacked the detail to make it realistic.
For a dark and grim post-apocalyptic shoot ’em up, you can’t do better than Dredd. Urban plays the perfect killing machine while Thirlby perfectly complements this with a completely relateable human element. The action doesn’t stop from the beginning of the film but only gives you enough time to take a breath before it throws you back in. The locations and action scenes are completely engaging and realistic, save for some overdone CGI violence effects, but it’s not enough to hurt your experience.
If you want an action thrillride and engaging post-apocalyptic world, this is a no-brainer.