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By Shane M. Dallmann

Okay, it’s been ALMOST twenty years–plenty of time for people to forget that time that Sylvester Stallone dressed up as Judge Dredd for a party and didn’t know that the camera was running, right? (Hey, I like Stallone, but would you make an Inspector Clouseau movie and try to pass it off as James Bond?) Here’s the DREDD that MEANS it.

He’s Dredd. He’s The Law. And that’s all you need to know. Karl Urban understands this and respects this enough to NEVER remove the helmet. I can’t imagine a more effective portrayal of the character as depicted in the comics.

We’re in post-apocalyptic Mega-City One. And whether or not this was intentional, we get back-handed references to DC Comics (there’s a Hall of Justice) and the Marvel Universe (much-hated “muties” are among the population). One such mutant looks perfectly normal, but she has enhanced psychic abilities–she’s rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), and she’s been assigned to Dredd’s supervision on her “assessment day” as things kick off. And the call she chooses to answer involves a drug-ring-related triple homicide in the massive Peach Tree slum tower.

Dredd and Anderson don’t have much of a problem picking up their prime suspect, but drug queenpin MaMa (Lena Headey) doesn’t want them to leave the building with him, so the blast doors drop and the hunt is on.

Yes, I was thinking exactly the same thing, but as DREDD has actually been sitting on a shelf for the past two years, the similarity to THE RAID: REDEMPTION really IS coincidental.

DREDD (the movie itself, not just the character) hits pretty much every target at which it aims. You can’t say that “anyone” could play Dredd under the helmet, as we’ve seen all too vividly that NOT just anyone could. Urban knows the difference between “robotic” and “deadpan” and actually supplies some of the movie’s best (and much-needed) laughs without ever breaking character. Thirlby is spot-on as Anderson–the rookie may have a conscience, but she never, EVER plays the shrinking violet. And Headey’s MaMa is one of the best movie villains you could ask for–ice, steel, sadism AND a cool head for business.

Incidentally, her business involves “Slo-Mo,” a drug that distorts the user’s sense of time accordingly–and THAT means that every time a user suffers an excruciating death (which, of course, happens often), we get to see it happen at 1/100ths of the normal speed. Make no mistake, this is a wall-to-wall mayhem movie, and you won’t miss a bit of the splatter even if you blink. I can’t imagine what an “unrated” version of this could possibly add, but I imagine we’ll get one anyway (and we’ll get it before too long–despite everything in its favor, the movie’s tanking).

Oh, and you’d best see it in 3-D while you’re at it–DREDD takes full advantage of the technology to hang you over dizzying drops and explode whatever happens to be available on screen (both organic and inorganic) directly into your face. Which, of course, made it all the more infuriating that the first five minutes of the movie were out of focus at the screening I caught (and since I had to pay a NON-matinee price AND pay extra for the glasses AND have to sit through the TAKEN 2 trailer for the eight hundred and sixty-seventh time), I was ready to storm out and demand a refund. But they fixed it JUST as I was rising from my seat, and I’m glad that I stayed.

If you were at all drawn to this movie in the first place, I imagine that it will give you everything you want. Better hurry, though.

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