It wouldn’t be fair to call ‘Dredd’ a remake per se, but it does represent exactly the type of remake we should (but mostly aren’t) getting. That is, when a film could have been great, but didn’t realise this potential. The 1995 film of long-running British comic ‘Judge Dredd’ certainly fits this description. For many people the botched adaptation was their introduction, and probable sole experience of the popular character.
This new take immediately sets about doing a better job by hiring people who actually care about the source material, who assured fans long before the release that no, Judge Dredd’s helmet would not be coming off.
‘Dredd’ sensibly avoids any kind of origin or back story for its main character, and instead gives us essentially a ‘day in the life of a judge’ type story. Dredd, along with young new recruit Anderson, investigate a triple homicide in one of the city’s many 200 storey tower blocks, to find the building run by drug-running crime boss Ma-Ma, who locks the whole building down until the Judges are killed.
We don’t see a great deal of Mega-city one, the giant, crime filled metropolis, but we do get an effective idea of the scale and character of it, no mean feat considering the relatively low budget involved here.
As the future lawman himself, Karl Urban brings what is essentially a one-note character to the screen superbly. Adopting a gravelly, Clint Eastwood-esque voice, his lips permanently pointing down, he doesn’t laugh, emote, learn or change. He is, quite simply, the law.
In stark contrast to Dredd though, is rookie Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who effectively provides the more human side of the story. Another atypical choice that pays off well is having a female villain, who has no trouble convincingly intimidating her henchmen.
‘Dredd’ gives us a good deal of futuristic technology, but is primarily, an action film, and relentlessly delivering explosive set-pieces as the trapped Judges have to fight their way out. The future drug of the movie is called slow-mo, which slows down the user’s perception of time to 1% normal rate. The handful of scenes we get from the perspective of a slow-mo user are highlights, particularly when showing parts of an action-packed shoot out. One of the more surprising elements of ‘Dredd’ was just how violent it is, but often in gruesomely inventive ways.
A futuristic take on an old-school action movie that should please long time fans of the character and newcomers alike.
Note: This review refers to a 2D version of the movie, as I try to avoid 3D whenever I can. That said, I can see how 3D could have been used well certain scenes, such as the ‘slow-mo’ ones, but overall it’s never necessary.