Director: Pete Travis
Entertainment Film Distributor/Lionsgate
I’m a constant defender of the modern influx of comic book/superhero movies. When there is a wide assortment of subgenres such as this, who are we to complain? There are constant complaints about how all superhero movies are similar. If you can convince me Captain America: The First Avenger is the same as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I’ll buy you a seafood dinner. If you can convince me Dredd is similar to even a Batman movie, I’ll be dumbstruck.
Dredd is a throwback to testosterone fueled action movies of the ’80s with a dash of modern stylization. In the world of Dredd, Earth is a desert wasteland. The remnants of humanity survive in cities that span 800 miles known as Mega Cities. Our story takes place in Mega City one, a day in the life of Dredd as he goes on a routine mission to test a rookie in the field. Naturally, everything goes wrong with a simple bag and tag and the two become trapped in a city block over 200 stories tall. It’s a simple concept, and yes it is eerily similar to The Raid. Now it isn’t quite as structurally concise as The Raid, but Dredd still has plenty to offer on its own accord. The Raid is the story of one man against the world under extreme circumstances. Dredd is about a legend and rookie facing the everyday odds of a world falling apart and their differing methods on how to approach it.
Karl Urban gets to finally take a lead role here as the titular Judge. The character of Judge Dredd isn’t a fully formed character but rather an extension of the ideas that the Judge system believes to be necessary to survive in this post-apocalyptic world. Olivia Thirlby is the rookie Cassandra Anderson. Anderson is a mutant with the ability to read minds of other people. Even with the drastic state of the world, she’s still optimistic that there is good to be found here. Dredd does a respectable job of showing the opposite viewpoints of the focal characters without ever slowing the pace of the action.
The action in The Raid is all about hand-to-hand combat and neck-to-door finishing movies; while Dredd harkens back to the gun-blazing force of ’80s action. Complete with one-liners and grotesque violence, Dredd honorably pays tribute to its influences through a hail of bullets and flames without wearing them on its sleeves. A recent trend with action movies is to follow through on shootouts with slow motion imagery, so naturally, this movie uses the slow motion to express the state of mind of junkies who use the slow-mo drug. It’s pretty on the nose but a whole lot of fun. And don’t even get me started on the one-liner moments. A personal favorite comes after Judge Dredd tosses a villain off a rooftop, and just when you expect a snarky remark, he simply nods his head and says “Yeah.” Only a special type of badass can earn a moment like that.
Although the world of Dredd is filled with dark and gritty scenery, the film uses it with actual purpose in the dystopia of Mega City One. It’s isn’t something as a random stylistic choice. From the opening chase scene you come to understand this is the way the world functions now. If you can’t keep up you’re going to be dragged down.
Dredd wasn’t a hit with audiences during release. The movie almost made its budget back, but with Avengers and Dark Knight Rises fever running rampant among moviegoers (both movies I love very much), it’s easy to see why nobody went out to see this damn movie. It was far too different from what people were expecting/wanting at the time. But it’s this very reason that this movie deserves to find an audience now. With new arguments about how “comic book movies are all the same” popping up every day, it’s important for movies like Dredd to exist. Not just because it fucking rules (that helps) but because this is one of the best examples of the types of movies that have potential to thrive under the banner of being a comic book/superhero movie.