I will look at a film very dear to me for the finale of underrated crime classics. Dredd is Pete Travis’ hardcore dystopian sci-fi flick based on the long running comic, Judge Dredd by John Wagner. Dredd is one of my two favorite comic book (not superhero) movies. Dredd came out in 2012, when a lot of highly anticipated comic book movies were being released such as: The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Amazing Spider Man. Dredd kicked all of their asses in terms of quality, but sadly failed at the box office.
Dredd shows a day in the life of Judge Joseph Dredd, as he and trainee Anderson are stuck in a Mega Block (a really giant building) fighting the ruthless drug-lord Ma-ma, and her gang.The story is simple, and easily establishes the dystopian world Dredd lives in. Trainee Anderson, played wonderfully by Olivia Thirlby, gives the viewer a fresh perspective on Mega City One and Dredd. Anderson isn’t only a tag along; she is an important character with a creative skillset, and a major role to play in the film (an even bigger role in the comics). Karl Urban is the perfect casting for Dredd. He owns this role, and seamlessly transfers the character from page to screen. You just have to compare Urban’s jawline to the jawline of comics Dredd to know that this is the best comic book movie casting since Ron Perlman as Hellboy.
The Judge Dredd comics are outlandish and over the top, while Dredd simplifies its world, and creates a very realistic dystopia. The creators of Dredd were certainly influenced by John Carpenter in terms of story, pacing, characters, music, and production design. I see a lot of Assault on Precinct 13, and Escape from New York in Dredd. The dystopian world, short time span and fast paced minimalist action sequences are all very similar.
Dredd moves at a fast pace, opening up with a kick ass car chase, and leading into one giant action scene in Ma-ma’s Mega Block that accounts for the rest of the film. Another film that Dredd has drawn comparisons to is The Raid, another film I’ve reviewed. The only similarity is the fight in a building premise, which has been a common action movie premise since Assault on Precinct 13. The Raid and Dredd execute this premise with different, and distinct styles. Ma-ma (Lena Headey) is an intimidating villain. She isn’t as well characterized as Tama from The Raid, but she is one cold mofo. She also throws a lot of deadly surprises at Dredd and Anderson, which makes for a lot of creative action set pieces that build off each other, instead of staying stagnant. The action scenes are well shot and paced, they aren’t adrenaline fueled, but they are engaging. The film makes great use of practical effects, along with CGI when needed. The best use of CGI is during the slo mo sequences (the drug Ma-ma sells). The cinematography is beautiful for these scenes, and contrasts well with the gritty cinematography throughout the rest of the film. The slo-mo scenes make the image of Dredd blowing some junkie’s brains out a thing of majestic beauty.
The score by Paul Leonard Morgan is full of low bass beats and pulsating electronics. It is reminiscent of John Carpenter’s synth scores. It keeps the intensity up while never overshadowing what’s taking place on-screen. The film is a great Hard-R sci-fi action film along with being an awesome comic book adaptation. It’s very different from the usual PG-13 comic book movies that are constantly released. Dredd stands alongside great 80s sci-fi action films such as Robocop and the Carpenter films I mentioned earlier.
Sadly when Dredd was first released, I dismissed it as another comic book cash in. I went and saw The Avengers, and The Dark Knight Rises instead. While I am happy to have seen those films on the big screen, I regret not seeing Dredd in theatres. One of my few regrets is not supporting Dredd when it needed me most. It took me two years to finally see Dredd, and the more I watch it, the more I appreciate it. I really hope that it gets a sequel. If any movie deserves a sequel, it’s Dredd.
Favorite Scene: Dredd vs. Corrupt Judges. F-Yeah.
Written by Tyler Ducheneaux
Images from Dredd, Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 4, Escape from New York