Film Review: Dredd (2012)
“Dredd” revival tries too hard, 3/5 stars.
Todd Miller | Collegio Writer
After last week’s disappointment, I was treated this week to a well-handled action movie that heralds the beginning of the fall-winter movie season. That movie is “Dredd.”
“Dredd” is a revival of the “Judge Dredd” character from the British comic of the same name from the magazine, “2000 AD.” A Judge Dredd movie was released in 1995, starring Sylvester Stallone. Although “Dredd” is not related to its 1995 counterpart, it is a reintroduction of the character to more contemporary audiences and certainly an improvement over its 17-year-old cousin.
“Judge Dredd (1995)” was a fairly decent film, but was overplayed and silly enough that I just couldn’t take it seriously. “Dredd” fixes these issues and presents itself as a nicely crafted action movie.
The movie is, of course, about Judge Dredd (Karl Urban), a member of the Judges, the law enforcement (police, judge and executioners) of Mega-City One. Judge Dredd is asked to evaluate the performance of new recruit Judge Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), an orphaned woman and mutant with strong psychic capabilities.
Dredd and Anderson respond to a routine homicide and come to arrest Kay (Wood Harris). Kay works for Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), a ruthless gang leader and major producer of Slo-Mo (a drug that causes the brain to perceive time passing at 1 percent its normal speed). Ma-Ma doesn’t want the Judges to uncover her operation through Kay. She has the mega-structure in which the movie takes place locked down and orders her lackeys to kill Dredd and Anderson. The two Judges must now fight not only for their lives, but to bring justice against Ma-Ma.
“Dredd” is a solid film. The plot alone isn’t all that original: Two cops, one new, one experienced, take on a gang to bring down a drug ring. However, “Dredd” makes it work. The movie is able to remain engaging and entertaining throughout, even with a tired storyline.
The main characters stay interesting as well, nicely balanced in their abilities. Dredd is an overly fantastic copper, and Anderson is a powerful psychic, but the writers don’t make them too over-powering and therefore uninteresting. The two of them have their own falling out, and that makes them more dynamic and interesting. Even the stoic Dredd remains interesting because the audience knows that his coldness is a façade.
By the same turn, the villains are despicable and unlikable, which is perfect for antagonists. But the writers and actors don’t go over the top and make the villains merely annoying. It’s a good balance.
The visual effects are quite nice, but nothing ground-breaking, which I appreciate because they don’t get between the plot and the audience.
The movie’s only failings were the bits involving Slo-Mo. On the one hand, the filming has a more saturated look to mimic the effects of the psychedelic drug. But the scenes were overwrought, more so in 3D. Without 3D, the effect becomes far too obvious.
Like they’re trying too hard.