So much of DREDD unfolds like his law enforcement exploits from the trades. Mark my words: as comic book adaptations go, you’re not likely to see anything this faithful in your lifetime. (For the record, you’re reading the thoughts of a tremendous comic book fan – started reading them in the early 1970’s, in fact – as well as a connoisseur of most comic-inspired films. If nothing else, I’d like to think I know what I’m talking about when it comes to comics-inspired properties.) Prior to DREDD, I’d long believed personally that no one could top how perfectly SUPERMAN – THE MOVIE and SUPERMAN II captured the look, feel, and themes of that format. But now? I just might have to rethink my favorite comic-book-to-film rankings.
If nothing else, that’s what makes me so very, very sad – due to its poor performance at the box office, I can’t imagine it likely that we’ll see this cast and this crew afforded a second opportunity to deliver more spills, chills, and kills to the silver screen. IMDB.com shows the film was budgeted at around $50M, and the last box office projection shows a paltry $13M in returns. Odds are good that this kind of delivery will never happen again, and I can’t begin to tell you what a disservice to fandom that is. This was the kind of motion picture I hated to end. It’s simply that good.
(NOTE: the following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last paragraph for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
The world, as we knew it, is gone. Most countries have been annihilated; and, so far as America is concerned, there’s only Mega City One, an immense sprawling city where those who remain alive fight a daily battle to survive. The only thing protecting what’s left of humanity from the chaos are the Judges – specially trained law enforcement officers drafted into service to capture criminals and pronounce instant sentences (“death” being the most common). One of the most effective is Judge Dredd (played by Karl Urban). Paired with the rookie Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), Dredd is dispatched to investigate a triple homicide in the Peach Trees, a super-skyscraper housing Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), the head of a syndicate that holds control over everyone one of its 200 floors. Ma-Ma deals in a new drug, Slo-Mo, and she won’t take kindly to these two officers invading her turf.
It’s a slam-bang action/adventure from start to finish, brought to you by director Pete Travis, a relative newcomer to the scene if you check out his biography on IMDB.com. The script by Alex Garland is smart with a decidedly retro- quality to it, and much of it flows like a terrific mix of hardboiled dialogue with noir undertones. What could have been reduced to one action-set-piece after another is, instead, a fairly logical progression – cops show up, cops get trapped, cops turn the tables on their attackers, and cops make it to the showdown – and the intelligence of the entire production benefits from it. To his credit, Garland shares screen time with Dredd’s creators, John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, as its clear he ‘cut his teeth’ on much of their source material.
I won’t belabor the issue. Instead, I’ll encourage you to head out to your favorite video store today and pick up a rental if you’re not convinced that this one is worth the blind buy. I did, and, now that I’ve seen it, I’m buying a copy. I’ll definitely wear out the tracks on this one, as it’s the perfect action flick for any Friday, Saturday or Sunday night … or ANY night, come to think of it. I may go watch it again now!
DREDD is produced by DNA Films, IM Global, Peach Trees, Reliance Big Entertainment, Reliance Big Pictures, and Rena Film. As for the technical specifications, everything looks and sounds exceptional, though I’ll admit one sequence that had Dredd – with his best ‘Dirty Harry’ voice – speaking over a building loudspeaker system, and I had to listen very close to catch all of it (thankfully, Dredd’s a man of few words). There’s a plethora of special features available on the disc, including a brief retrospective on the judge’s career; an in-depth look at the film’s special effects; and a series of short featurettes exploring futuristic gear, story locations, and more. It’s a nice package – where’s the commentary? – and it only left me wanting even more.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. Yes, everything positive you’ve heard about this adaptation of DREDD is true. It’s an exciting and visceral experience from start to finish with a hit-it-outta-the-park performance by Karl Urban as the pivotal judge, jury, and executioner. Comparisons to THE RAID: REDEMPTION are warranted, I guess; but, whereas I had problems with how the plot progressed in THE RAID, so much of DREDD flowed much more organically as it related to the struggles of all the main players. I had minor quibbles with the usage of slow-motion sequences – that’s always a bit of a gripe of mine – though I’m comfortable saying that this story clearly had a stated, artistic purpose for using it when and where they did. And, definitely, this is a faithful adaptation of the Dredd I know from the comic books.
My first brush with the comic book character “Judge Dredd” was when he tangled with Batman in an inter-company one-shot “Judgment in Gotham”. Then on, I took a look at several stories that depicted the character such as “Return of Rico”, “Judge Death” and “Robot Wars”, but admittedly while charmed by its character as a futuristic “Dirty Harry” with a little mystery as to what his race was, I never really became a huge fan of … more
I remember Stan Lee once saying that "Every comic is someone's first". Mine and where it was? I was a young boy sitting on my bed with my brother reading Judge Dredd #16 where Dredd has to find Fink Angel. It was such a weird story with a mutant and his pet rat running around the city, a flashback to Fink's childhood. For all I know this story is hated by fans or looked down on for being an older book when better ones were made. Years … more
***1/2 out of **** Judge Dredd is a powerhouse comic book action hero. Defined by his "man of few words" attitude and surprisingly elaborate set of skills, he exists in a futuristic world populated by typically intriguing ideas and an ever-increasing crime rate that just cannot be remedied. In 1995, the character was brought to the screen for the first time via actor Sylvester Stallone; whom most die-hard fans felt played the part unconvincingly. With comic book movies, the … more
For many, the 1995 Sylvester Stallone movie was perhaps their first and only exposure to the character of Judge Dredd. Originally created by writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra for British comic book 2000AD in 1977, Dredd had garnered a loyal cult following through the years, but the Stallone film brought the character to the attention of a much wider audience, particularly in America. While that movie had much to applaud from a technical and visual point of view, it was ultimately crippled … more
Star Rating: One of the biggest complaints fans had with 1995’s Judge Dredd was that the title character, played by Sylvester Stallone, wasn’t wearing his helmet for much of the film. This went against what was established in the original comic strip by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra; you saw nothing more than his nose and mouth. I haven’t so much as glanced at a single panel of the strip. I have, however, seen Dredd 3D, a remake of sorts. … more
Quick Tip by Pine_Bluff_Variant.
November 05, 2012
Judge. Jury. Executioner. Way better than the Stallone version. Karl Urban takes up the mantle of one of the biggest British-produced comic characters, and nails it. I cannot comment on the similarities this film supposedly have to The Raid: Redemption as I have not seen that film, but I can say this is one of the most satisfying (and gory!) action films of the year. the minimal use of CGI (if there was CGI used, it wasn't upfront and was integrated very well) aids the gritty … more
The comic hero/facist of the future takes on a new rookie and must escape a high rise tenement where a drug lordess and her gangs declare war on the two of them. Taut and high action without the camp and cheese of the Stallone film, but doesn't touch on as much of the life and politics that the city faces as I had hoped.