Friday, May 27, 2016

Dredd Review

So, for my first retro review, I thought I'd review Dredd. Because why not? The Stallone film was atrocious, but is this one any better? Click on to find out.

I feel like I should preface this by saying that I've never been a Dredd reader, but I do have a basic knowledge of the character. And I love the premise. In a dystopian future, just in case you weren't tired of those, most of the world has been destroyed. But there's still a large, incredibly dense city that stretches from DC to Boston. It's also infested by constant crime, and the justice system can't keep up. As a result, they've created Judges. Lawmen with the authority to be judge, jury, and executioner all at once.

This particular story follows Dredd (Karl Urban). A veteran Judge who's been sent out to evaluate a new recruit, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) to see if she's capable of being a Judge. Things go pretty wrong, though, when they become trapped in a huge residential structure, and are at the mercy of the Ma-Ma clan. A gang that owns the whole structure. And is led by, well, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey).

First, let's talk about that premise. It was perfect for this story. And being a big Die Hard fan, I'm a sucker for any cat and mouse type story. And the story was incredibly focused and tight. I loved seeing these Judges have to survive on their wits and instincts with the odds stacked against them. It made for a very fun movie.

The writing was also very good. A couple times the dialogue comes off as a little clunky, but for the most part, it's pretty great. Fits the characters very well, and serves the story perfectly.

Another thing that's worth mentioning is how many of the sets were completely real. It uses plenty of CGI and green screens for sure, but many of the sets and action sequences are very practical. And that really goes to create a great atmosphere and tense action sequences, which we'll get to later. The costume design was also great. Just the general aesthetic was fantastic. The set and costume designers should be commended.

The performances are also great. Especially Karl Urban. Seriously, we need to get this guy some more work, because he's fantastic. And he was absolutely perfect as Dredd. From the powerful voice to the hilarious constant frown on his face. He also never takes off his helmet, causing Urban to have to do a lot to convey his performance without most of his face. And he does that exceptionally well.

Anderson is played by Olivia Thrilby, and she was pretty good. I felt like her performance starts off somewhat wooden, but she gets better as the film goes. I also liked her character quite a bit, and the use of her psychic powers. Did I mention she was psychic? That's kind of important. Thirlby does a decent enough job with the role, despite a few moments of inconsistency.

There's also Lena Headey as the main villain, Ma-Ma. She was pretty fantastic. Her insanity is great to watch, and she's very intimidating as a villain. It's also really cool to see a female villain who completely owns a criminal empire. I enjoy that kind of thing. All while focusing on her as a villain and not sexualizing her. Not only is she intimidating, she's freaking scary.

Another thing I have to mention is the action sequences. Pete Travis did a fantastic job directing this movie, and the action sequences were superb. Slow motion is nothing new, but this is one of the few movies to make it an important part of the story. There's a drug called slo-mo that makes one perceive time at one percent it's normal speed. And incorporated into the film, it's really beautiful to watch. But beyond that, the regular action sequences are incredibly gritty and quite tense. They really are a ton of fun to watch.

That sort of leads into that bad things. Much as I loved the action sequences, I'm not a fan of graphic violence for the sake of graphic violence. If it helps serve the story, then great. If not, then I just find it unnerving. It can even take you out of the film if it's too unrealistic.  And the violence does occasionally cross that line. It does help to paint the world as a truly awful place, but sometimes, it's obvious that it just wanted to please those who wanted to see heads explode and bodies fly apart. And, fine, but how about we get back to the story?

Also, I think the character development was a little lacking. It wasn't bad, but no one really arched in the movie. At least not substantially. Dredd softens up a bit and Anderson gets a little tougher, but there's little else. Anderson was interesting enough, as you get to see her dealing with the hard life of a Judge. And the film does a good job showing her go through that. Dredd is awesome. But he doesn't have a lot of depth. Even so, they are incredibly entertaining to watch.

This is a retro review, and that means spoilers. So you might want to skip this paragraph if you want to avoid those. But there's one thing at the end that I just can't get over. At the end, Ma-Ma straps a transmitter to her wrist that will set off a bomb if her heart stops beating. Pretty cool idea, right? What's Dredd gonna do? How's he gonna solve this problem? Oh, he's just gonna shoot her anyway. Then he figures the transmitter on her wrist doesn't have the range to set off the bomb if he throws her off the balcony a couple hundred stories up. So, wait, hold on. Ma-Ma has been portrayed as a very cunning villain up to this point. But she never considered the idea that Dredd could just throw her off the roof? It just seems too easy for a film that's been really smart up until this point. It also seemed pretty irresponsible of Dredd to risk so many lives that way. I know, I know, he plays by his own rules or whatever. But I just feel like it was too much of a cop out of a potentially tense and interesting ending.

Well, that's it. Despite a lack of real character development, a tendency towards over violence and a somewhat lackluster ending, Dredd is still a well-written, well-acted, and superbly directed action film. That benefits further from it's focused narrative and storytelling.

Final Score: 4/5

That's my review for Dredd. Do you guys agree? Or is this one just as bad as the Stallone one? Let me know down in the comments, and I'll see you guys next time on ComicBookMovieNerd.com

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