tek's rating:

Dredd (R)
DNA Films; Dread Central (Blu-ray/DVD); IMDb; Judge Dredd Wiki; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Wikipedia
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This movie is also known as "Dredd 3D," but since I only saw it on DVD, in 2D, I'm going with just plain "Dredd." It's based on a character who first appeared in British comics in 1977, none of which I've read. I probably first became aware of the character sometime in the 90s, when there were DC comics published about the character, but I don't think I ever even read any of those, at least not any standalone stories. I probably read a couple crossovers with DC universe characters like Batman and Lobo, but I don't remember anything specific about them (I'll have to reread them someday). Anyway, In 1995 there was a movie called Judge Dredd, starring Sylvester Stallone. I honestly don't remember if I ever saw it or not; I feel like it's probable I just saw the commercials for it. The main thing I remember about it is that Rob Schneider was also in it. And it seemed like the movie would be more of a comedy than I tend to expect anything about Judge Dredd to be. Which may be a mistake on my part, I don't know. It's just, Dredd is such a stoic character... I get the sense that the comics are so over-the-top that they lend themselves to being mocked just a little, so maybe that's not out of place in the movie (and I'm sure it wasn't really a comedy, just because it had comedy in it). Though I feel like it may have been cheesier than it should have, but again, I don't even remember if I saw it, so I can't really say. I do think there are lots of people who thought that about the movie, though. Of course, the original comics were probably somewhat tongue-in-cheek and self-aware, so whatever. It's all good.

Still, I was interested to hear that there would be a new, more serious adaptation. (This time Dredd is played by Karl Urban, whom I'd previously seen in Star Trek, but I couldn't recognize him here, because the helmets all Judges wear cover most of their faces.) I don't remember when I first heard about the movie, but it came out in 2012, and I'm certain I'd heard of it at least a couple of years before that. Anyway, I also wanted to mention that, while it was obvious that I'd put my review in the comic book adaptations section, I also thought I'd probably link to it in the badass section. But as I watched it, I started thinking maybe it didn't have enough soul to be truly badass. I thought back to how I used to have a section called "a bit of the old ultraviolence," but I don't think I ever had more than one movie in that category before I eliminated it. That's probably where I would have put my review, if the category still existed. Although by the end of the movie, I decided it kind of deserved to be called "badass." I still don't know how much soul the movie has, but there's more than it seemed like it would have. Certainly it does have traces of heart, and of humor, and of cleverness. But mostly it's just mindless violence and a lot of blood.

Anyway... it's set in the future, when most of America is a radioactive wasteland. There's an enormous city called Mega-City One, which was built over the ruins of... pretty much everything from Boston to Washington, DC. There are huge skyscrapers called "blocks," each of which seems to be essentially a city unto itself. There are 800 million people in Mega-City One, and crime is rampant. The Judges are like one-man law-enforcement units with broad discretionary powers. They are very formidable... you know, badasses. And they're supposed to adhere very strictly to the law, though they can pass judgement on criminals without trials, whenever necessary. Including the death penalty. And they have awesome guns that can do pretty much anything. Unfortunately, however awesome the Judges are, there's just far too much crime for them to make much of a dent. Anyway, Dredd is like the most badass Judge of all (and apparently the strictest adherent to the law).

One day, Dredd is assigned to assess a rookie Judge named Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby). Her grades are slightly below a passing level, but the ruling council wants to give her a chance, because she's a mutant with powerful telepathic abilities. (Her abilities come in extremely handy in a number of ways throughout the film.) Rather conveniently (from a movie-viewing perspective), the helmets that most Judges wear interfere with Anderson's ability, so she doesn't wear one. Which not only means we can actually recognize her throughout the film, but also her face is just nice to look at. Anyway, Dredd and Anderson respond to a report of a multiple homicide in a block called Peach Trees, which turns out to be under the control of a drug lord called Ma-Ma (Lena Headey, the only actor in the film who was recognizable to me from anything else). The two Judges take one of Ma-Ma's top people into custody, but because he could give them damaging information if they get him to headquarters, Ma-Ma has her techie lock down the block, so no one can get in or out. The rest of the movie is pretty much two Judges against a 200-story building full of heavily armed mooks. So, yeah, lots of opportunities for badassery.

I'm really not sure what else to say, except that I liked the bookends of Ma-Ma's first scene and her last scene. Each scene had a beautiful visual effect caused by the use of a drug called Slo-Mo, which drastically slows the user's perception of time. It nags at me that the way the drug works doesn't really make sense; it seems to me that if everything seems slow to them, their minds must be working faster than normal, so they should be able to react faster. But it seems like their reaction time decreases along with their perception, instead of increasing. I just don't get that, but I'm willing to overlook it because of the neat visual effects it allows throughout the movie, especially, as I mentioned, the similarity between Ma-Ma's first and last scenes. Other than that... I found Anderson to be a reasonably interesting character. None of the other characters seemed to me to have any depth to them, but they all played the parts they needed to play in the story. And as for the story itself, it wasn't bad. Not great, but one doesn't generally look for great storytelling in this kind of movie. And the movie really was better than one might expect. I don't particularly feel the need to ever watch it again, but it was decent.

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