Man, when this movie came out, I heard a TON of people bad-mouthing it. I had seen the original adaptation of the graphic and unrepentantly violent comic “Judge Dredd.” The original film was a giant piece of shit that starred Sylvester Stallone and Rob Schneider. Yeah, you can imagine how much people liked that movie. Not only did it spit in the face of its source material by having Dredd take his mask off, but the film had Rob Schneider in it. That alone is reason enough not to like it. Maybe that film colored people’s expectations. It did mine, so I never saw the new adaptation. Now, I can eat what I thought, because this movie is fucking awesome! Much like the comic, it is unrepentantly gory. The violence is cranked up to 11. The titular character is awesome. I love this movie, so let’s talk about it.
The plot of the film is that after a massive nuclear holocaust, the remaining world’s population is packed into massive and over-crowded megacities. They are crime-ridden cesspools, with 12 major crimes reported every second. Given the criminal nature of these places, a new force has been created to deal with the crime. They enforce the law, punish criminals and their sentences are absolute. They are the Judges. One of the most noted among them is Dredd. A cold and ruthless upholder of the law, who does not bargain and does not give in. He is dedicated to his task, no matter what the cost. One day, he is paired up with a rookie cadet named Anderson. She is unimposing, but has a secret that makes her stand out – she is a Mutant, with the ability to read minds. Dredd is instructed to throw her in the deep end and see how she does. Needless to say, he does just that.
The first thing to know about this film is that it is gory as fuck. It never lets up. Ever. The violence is almost non-stop and they never tone it down. If blood and guts bother you, then you won’t like this movie. So don’t watch it, you pussy. For the rest of us, the gore effects are great!
This brings us to the second thing I love – the cinematography. This film has some amazing stand-out moments of visual gorgeousness. There is a plot-convenient drug that is making the rounds, and when its effects are on display, it is dazzling. Watching the gory moments when this drug is on display is visually-arresting. It’s like a combination of artful and grotesque. Don’t see that much in today’s family-friendly film market. For real, when is the last time you saw a movie that had a ton of gore but wasn’t torture-porn? That’s a rare gift. Gore can be acceptable, so long as it makes sense. This movie is 1000X smarter than the Saw or Hostel films, that have gore just for its own sake. It all has a purpose in this film, and that is to showcase just how violent and brutal the world of the film is. Mission accomplished.
Which brings us to the performances. Karl Urban does the role of Dredd perfectly. He’s cold, dark, but has this weird thing of being funny (in a twisted kind of way). Anderson is a believable innocent who is having to become a much darker person, and by the end of the film, you can see how she becomes cynical of the Judges and her position. The same woman who plays Cersi Lannister plays the main villain “MaMa.” While nowhere near as elegant as Cersi, she is a fun villain. The guy who played Avon Barksdale plays another villain who the two heroes are dragging around through most of the film. While none of these characters would have won Oscars for their performances, they are still engaging people.
Lastly, there is the world. The set designs are all really drab and look the part of poverty. Special effects clearly are showcased in all the right places, as the grotesque moments look believable. Nothing about this film is complicated, but it’s all in the execution.
This is an awesome movie, that didn’t get nearly the respect that it deserved. Part of me is bummed that I didn’t see it when it was out, but we are able to give it its due now. If you haven’t seen this movie because you thought it would suck, do it. Do it now!
8 out of 10