Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dredd Review

I've never seen Judge Dredd...but I've heard plenty of things about it.  Namely that it's not very good.  In fact, it was a running joke on Scrubs (one of my all-time favorite shows) that JD and Turk loved it so much ("100th viewing!!").  Needless to say I wasn't all that thrilled when I first read about this reboot quite a long time ago.  Then buzz started building from the Comic-Con screenings just a few months ago; there was nary a negative review for it.  Luckily, this is one of the rare cases where the buzz and hype are wholly validated: Dredd is one of, if not the best action film of the year.

Its hard to talk about Dredd and not bring up this year's fantastic The Raid: Redemption.  Both share very, very similar plots.  Both films deal with law-enforcement agents inside a large apartment complex, fighting against a gang out for their blood.  While The Raid transforms from a shoot-em-up to a martial-arts film, Dredd doesn't deviate from the guns-blazing opening of the film that is simply fantastic.  It also takes place in an awesome dystopian future that just boggles my mind.  In the future of Dredd, there is one big ol' city in the "remnant of the old world," Mega City One.  It stretches from Boston to Washington, D.C.  Outside of the city's walls is a nuclear wasteland; anyone living out there either dies of radiation poisoning or becomes a "mutant."

The law enforcers of this city are "Judges;" mobile judge, jury, and executioner rolled into one...and Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is one of the best.  He's given a rookie Judge for evaluation; Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) barely failed the exams to become a Judge, but her incredible psychic abilities earned her a spot at Dredd's side.  The two respond to a triple homicide in the Peach Tree apartment complex (home to over 75,000 residents), which is actually run by the "Ma-Ma Clan."  Ma-Ma is a brutal drug kingpin and operates the manufacturing center of "slow-mo," a drug that slows your brain down to 1% of normal speed.  Dredd and Anderson are eventually trapped inside the complex and must fight their way through Ma-Ma's thugs in order to survive.

I promise, in the context of the film the narrative is incredibly simple and amazingly so.  I love just about everything about Dredd.  The pacing is just pitch-perfect, jumping between our two judges just slaughtering Ma-Ma's thugs, to Ma-Ma herself and her attempts to dispatch her two enemies.  Dredd does not shy away from blood and gore; there are plenty of gory head-shots and bodies exploding.  Some in slow motion!  See, there are myriad shots and scenes where some characters are high on slow-mo.  As a result, whatever we're seeing on-screen is in slow motion.  It starts to become a little over-used in the first half of the film but goes away during most of the action-heavy sequences in the second half.  Of all the show-stoppingly amazing action sequences, my favorite has to be a slow-mo induced drug-bust with Dredd just destroying a handful of gangbangers.  It.  Is.  Glorious.

The casting in the film is pretty much spot-on.  Karl Urban only has his mouth to work with, as his Judge helmet obscures most of his face.  He pretty much can only grimace.  And boy does he grimace with the best of em.  He's serious, snarky, and funny when he needs to be.  We know literally nothing about him besides his name.  The real emotional core of the film comes to us through Thirlby's Anderson.  Since she doesn't wear a helmet (they disrupt her psychic abilities), we get a face to connect with; her past is troubled and she's immediately relatable - she's just trying to do good in the world.  The two make a fantastic pairing and are just a joy to watch.  Lena Headey's Ma-Ma is pretty much a one-note baddie; she rose to power by killing her pimp and taking over his drug empire.  We get just enough backstory to validate her character's existence and show us that she's a formidable opponent to the Judges.

Dredd is pretty much the perfect action package; a tight, taught story, great characters, and a plethora of blood-soaked, head-shattering shootouts.  Even the score is fantastic, with techno-infused dub-steppy wet beats soaking up the blood and gore during action sequences.  My only real complaint is that I wished the movie were longer.  Its a tightly-wound 90-minute thrillride that I would've completely fine riding for another 30 minutes or more.  I cannot recommend Dredd highly enough.  I would also recommend seeing it in 3D; while nothing revolutionary, the slow-mo scenes look breathtaking in 3D.

Dredd is a tightly-would, perfectly-paced, blood-soaked action film that really should be seen.

The Bearded Bullet.

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