Dredd: A world that no one wants to live in

dredd-01Dredd – 2012

Director Pete Travis
Starring Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Wood Harris, Leana Headey
Written Alex Garland

One could suppose that there is an attempt at some artistic statement to be made with the world as it appears in Dredd, which is the 2nd attempt at starting a franchise based on the comic book.  Something akin to a slightly better lit Blade Runner is the most likely the goal.  What comes across is the message that might is right, even if it is no fun to observe.

“I am the law!” is the common refrain of our hero, Judge Dredd.  His statement is made with some amount of satire in the written material.  In the 1995 film, it was funny, if unintentionally so.  When Karl Urban utters this phrase, it comes across like a kick in the junk.

The movie has a plot of rookie cop Anderson (Thirlby) on her first day with the hardened professional Dredd.  She has psychic ability, which means she can’t wear her helmet.  The other reason she can’t wear her helmet is because she is much more pleasant to look at than anyone else in the film.  The normally glamorous Lena Headey is scarred, almost beyond recognition.  As the main baddie Ma Ma, she has to look this way.  It doesn’t make her look menacing as the makers might like.  For all the colorful characters that Dredd encounters as nemeses in the comic, they found a pretty boring group to counter him, here,

The cinematography is a deliberately mixed bag.  There are some artistic choices here, too, but most of it is not fun to observe.  The angles are awkward, for the most part, to give the 3D something to do.  Sometimes you see a comic book design, when they look through security monitors.  There are some inexplicably blurry shots and overall plenty of shots with miserable people coming to a horrible end.  As horrible as it seems to live in Mega City, there are many people who die horribly and in slow motion.

Urban does everything he is supposed to with the role, but wearing the hood takes away the power of his eyes and other facial expressions.  Seeing him in RED and especially Star Trek, he is someone who has the potential to be a very entertaining actor in action and comic films.  The effect is nullified here.  You could have had Ryan Phillipe, Ben Affleck or Crocodile Dundee play him and there would be little variance.

Alex Garland wanted to make a trilogy out of Judge Dredd, but I am not sure he will be allowed, given how much money this version did not make.  This movie does nothing for any of the actors in it.  It’s highly doubtful that it will win any technical awards.  The best guess is that one would need to be a Dredd fan to wring much enjoyment out of this, but that could be overestimating it a tad.

(*1/2 out of *****)

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