Why Dredd is Awesome

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“He is Judge, jury and executioner.”

It’s been around a year since Dredd released in cinemas. This ultra-violent comic book adaptation may not have done brilliantly at the box office, possibly scuppering chances for a sequel (though there is a lot being done by fans to heighten chances of a sequel, such as buying DVDs/Blu-Rays of the film and an online petition), but that is definitely no indication of the quality of the finished film. Dredd is actually one of my top three films from 2012, and I cannot recommend it highly enough to both fans of Judge Dredd and those looking for the kind of action movie Hollywood doesn’t seem to do much of anymore. Does all of this make Dredd awesome? You’re drokking right it does!

The story in Dredd is very simple, to the point that it’s almost non-existent. Judge Dredd is a well-known judge on the streets of Mega-City One and is tasked with deciding whether Anderson, a mutant with psychic powers, is good enough to become a Judge herself and join the Hall of Justice.  Judge Dredd and rookie Judge Anderson get called to a city block known as Peach Trees to investigate a triple homicide. As Dredd states at the beginning of the film, Judges can only respond to six percent of the crimes being committed at any one time. It’s just by coincidence that Anderson chooses Peach Trees. Once in, they find a lot more is going on than just a gang war and must fight their way to the top of the 200 story building in order to bring down Ma-Ma, her gang and her drug racket.

The story may be very simple, but that’s to be expected from this sort of action film (see Die Hard for another example). No, what you want here is action, fight scenes and violence, and this film rewards you with plenty of all three. The fight scenes are hard-hitting, with each hit sounding like it really hit something. The kills, both through unarmed or armed combat, are all bone-crunching and can very easily make those of a weaker disposition wince. The blood and gore are also realistic and each gunshot really looks like it made that hole in the wall, or ripped that persons flesh apart. All the little realistic bits of violence lend credence to the world and make it all the more believable as the war-torn, violent world it is advertised and known as.

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This ain’t the America you know.

One aspect that some people do not like is the use of slow-motion technology in the film. There are several instances where a scene that would take a few seconds is slowed down to the point of taking a lot longer because it is showing everything happening in slow motion and from different angles. Though this may seem a little odd, it does serve a purpose in the film: the drug Ma-Ma is creating is called Slow-Mo and makes the brain perceive everything going on around them at 1/100th of the speed. So when the slow motion camera kicks in, we’re no longer seeing the film as we normally would, but rather through the eyes of someone on the drug in the film. Plus, when everything goes slow mo, all the colours become more vibrant and the world itself more colourful, which I think is a really cool effect.

Typical of the comics the film is based on, though going against the grain for a big movie, there is no romantic subplot, either for the main characters nor any of the supporting characters. This film is all-out, balls-to-the-wall action. And it is all the better for it. Judge Dredd is not a man that has attachments to people, and it should stay that way for a better and more authentic cinema experience.

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A different kind of buddy cop movie.

Anderson is played by Olivia Thirlby and really gives the role the nuances and hesitation that makes her the emotional depth of the film, and the audience’s real eyes to this world. Ma-Ma is played pitch perfectly by Lena Headey, who plays the villain really well and makes us believe in another life she could have been a prostitute-turned-violent gang leader. She seems to play villains particularly well of late, with this and Game of Thrones really showing her capacity to play the bad guy in a story.

The real standout performance comes from Karl Urban as the titular character Judge Dredd. Urban plays the rough, no-nonsense Dredd perfectly, with all the acting done with his chin and his gravelly voice. (Urban’s almost constant grimace is also done perfectly and is a particular highlight of his portrayal of the character as it reflects Dredd’s worldview on his job, and the violence he encounters, brilliantly.) Urban himself insisted on never taking the helmet off, as Dredd in the comics never shows his face. I can certainly respect this artistic integrity, especially when films can be sold on star power alone. For the main star of the film to refuse to show his face really shows he cares for the characters and the authenticity in the film. I can’t really see anyone replacing Urban in the role and I personally think he is the perfect Judge Dredd for the big (or small) screen.

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Just look at his face. He’s seen some shit.

This film is a day in the life of Judge Dredd and I would love to see more of his life in Mega-City One, should there be a sequel. Until there is, remember to do everything you can to ensure that sequel (buy the film, sigh the online petition) and to obey the law; or you’ll end up in the Cubes, creep.

‘Til next time, this has been Jubby writing for The Awesome Update.

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