Dredd (2012)


Release date: September 7, 2012
Director: Pete Travis
Comic by: John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra
Screenplay by: Alex Garland
Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Wood Harris, Lena Headey

Sometime ago we posted the trailer [1] to this independent British adaptation of Dredd:

Dredd will center on Dredd (Urban) and his rookie partner (Thirlby) who have to battle their way through a high-rise building to stop evil drug lord Ma-Ma (Headey). Ma-Ma’s drug, Slo-Mo, gives the brain the sense that real-time is moving at 1% regular speed.

And as straightforward as that sounds, it is just that. A game of shoot’em up — no high-tension drama of whether our heroes or villains will have a moment of philosophical discovery or any social introspection for its audience. There is just one purpose in Dredd and that’s to get them before they get you.

Even more interesting is the choice to never get to see Karl Urban’s face as Dredd, but that’s because we all got so used to seeing Sylvester Stallone’s wonky face, no? Though Dredd never stops being Dredd, the two dimensional character, it never seems to be an issue. It’s like expecting an apple to be an orange, it’s never going to happen. Who does seem to have an interesting character arc in the story is rookie psychic Anderson (Thirlby), who really stole the show from everyone… which seems a rather simple feat, considering most of the characters in the movie are faceless or come in mobs.

Anderson starts her journey as your run of the mill rookie “judge” wanting to do field work to “make a difference.” Though she’s never a victim, she’s also never a powerful fighting Mary Sue — like, they could have made her kick all those men’s butts when she was caught, but that would have been too Black Widow from Iron Man 2. Olivia Thirlby generally plays ironic “alternative” girls, so Anderson seems against her type, and it’s refreshing. I still think she would have made an amazing Lisbeth Salander.

The biggest feature on Dredd, however, is the action and special effects, given how “tiny” the budget was by Hollywood standards. At $45M USD, it’s sad that it hasn’t recouped at least that amount. Use of 3D is… somewhat interesting, with the high on Slo-Mo drugs being the most visual scenes in the whole movie, especially considering how some of the horrible deaths play out. Loads of “Ow,” “Oh,” “Ah” and laughs were heard all around.

I have no idea why, but thinking back on it as I write this review, I have strong memories of Tropa de Elite — “cops” storm in a “city” to clean up a mess??? I’m surprised movie critics liked this so much, when the former Brazilian shoot’em up cop movie was labeled as right-wing propaganda when, in fact, Tropa de Elite is as entertaining as it is layered with social discussion. As it is, Dredd was super fun to watch, but I’m not sure it would endure the test of multiple re-watches.

Neither did Shoot’em Up.

Rating: ★★★¼☆ 


YAM Magazine editor, photographer, blogger, translator and part-time web designer. Film junkie, music junkie… and lately series (a.k.a. TV) junkie.

11 Responses

  1. The plot synopsis reminds me of The Raid: Redemption.

    also, your comparison is especially interesting since Jose Padilha is directing the new Robocop.

    • amy says:

      @Diandra Rodriguez, it’s pretty much ANY raid movie, no? Cops go in, something goes wrong, must fix. As much as I liked this, it baffles me that it’s got +70% while Tropa de Elite sits at barely 50-something% – I haven’t followed Padilha’s news, but I still got Bus 174 on that pending queue.

  2. mirella says:

    I think some critics, and myself, liked Dredd so much, it’s because it was such a better adaptation of the comic book that Stallone’s version.
    While Judge Dredd is one of my guilty pleasures, and was inspired into a popular comic storyline, one of the many reasons it “betrayed” the comic was (besides Rob Schneider) you see Dredd (Stallone)’s face all the freaking time. In the comics you never ever see his face except flashbacks when he was a kid.
    Also, the plot of Judge Dredd was too blown out of proportion to what Dredd comics are usually like, which is close to the new Dredd movie… even if the plot is mostly original, I think.
    Still, I will forever guiltily love Stallone’s rendition of “I am the lah” :P

    • amy says:

      @mirella, you make a great Stallone impersonation. In fair assessment of Stallone’s version, though, the studio shouldn’t have called him if he was supposed to keep his helmet on all the time xD you do not pay Stallone to get faceless Stallone. xD

      Though my dad said that Urban’s jaw was like Stallone’s but less wonky. hahaha

  3. ghost says:

    Admit it, you have a Olivia Thirlby bias.

    • amy says:

      @ghost, I kinda do. So what? Still, she’s the only tiny girl with a face in the good side. I guess I could’ve talked about crazy Lena Heady too, but she was a regular crazy bad guy.

      • Rodrigo says:

        @amy, If Headey’s character would have been Cersei’d up, I would have given Dredd a 3-star rating on MUBI. Haven’t seen it after that time I saw it on the big screen, but Dredd was both surprising (I was expecting this to be the worst film of the year, but it had its good moments) and frustrating (it felt pretty heavy and tiring to watch at certain parts).

        • amy says:

          @Rodrigo, it would be kind of hard to Cersei’d her up in such a short time, I guess. But Heady was pretty darn crazy ugly in it hahaha, so I guess… kudos for it? I mean, I don’t think there’s many women in Hollywood who would go crazy ugly for their bad guy roles. My Witch post only points at Pfeiffer as an old witch and Angelica Huston xD

          Bond girls usually go for sexy bad guys. Imagine Sophie Marceau would’ve gone bald with a scar a la Carlyle in The World is not Enough. xD

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