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Dredd (2012)

September 28, 2012

8/10 Concrete Jungles

Can we please get more remakes like this? Pretty please?

Dredd takes place in a future America that’s been nuked down to a wasteland. The only civilization left standing is a stretch from Boston to D.C. – now known as Mega City One. The crime rate is suffocating, a drug called Slo-Mo rules the streets, and the only thing standing between order and full-out chaos are Judges. Enter Dredd, a veteran Judge who’s damn good at his job. But much to his disapproval, the day we meet him is the day he’s partnered up with a rookie psychic who doesn’t know what she’s gotten herself into. With introductions out of the way, they respond to their first call after three bodies are found mutilated in a local Mega Building run by a cold-blooded drug lord. They snoop around, make some arrests, and before they know it, they’re trapped inside and shooting their way through 200 floors of mayhem.

It’s The Raid: Redemption set in the post-apocalypse, not that that’s a bad thing.

From the first day I learned of this movie’s existence, I think I had the same gut reaction as most of humanity: “No.” Remaking Judge Dredd should not be a priority, let alone a reality. In a world that’s overrun by unnecessary and unoriginal movies that absolutely no one asked for, the existence of Dredd felt like a slap in the crotch. Might as well remake Battlefield Earth. The release day of Dredd was a day I was dreading (oh yes, I went there), but then the reviews started popping up, and lo and behold, it wound up hovering comfortably in the 90% range on Rotten Tomatoes before eventually dropping down to the high 70s.

This led me to two conclusions: A) People are idiots; or, B) Maybe there’s hope after all. Then I got to thinking about my own thoughts on remakes. Folks, by and large, most remakes and reboots have no place in this world since most of ’em these days get made just because. Why remake Total Recall when the original is still one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever made? Bad, Hollywood. Bad! Not to say that all remakes are bad, but I’m of the mindset that there are three valid reasons for a remake or reboot: 1) A once-great franchise has strayed from its former greatness (eg: Batman, James Bond); 2) A great movie from years past never got its proper due for some reason or other (eg: Inglourious Basterds); 3) A movie got made, it legitimately sucked, and now we have the wherewithal to make it something great. And if it doesn’t fall into those three, then stay the eff away.

Dredd, on the other hand, most definitely falls into that third category. And once this epiphany took place, my mind opened up. Still can’t believe I liked this as much as I did, but who doesn’t love a good cinematic redemption?

Now, since I’m generally unfamiliar with the source material in any way, shape, or form, I genuinely considered biting the bullet on this one and actually subjecting myself to Judge Dredd beforehand. Common sense ultimately won the war that day. From what I gather, the comic series that it’s based on are awesome, and from what I gathered further, Judge Dredd just dropped the ball. I’ve only seen bits and pieces of it, mainly ones that revolved around Rob Schneider and cyborg cannibals, but that seemed like enough to go off of. Word on the street is that it took itself way too seriously and suffered for it in excess, and given the destructive powers of Rob Schneider that we’re all too familiar with, I can see why things went so awry.

Although the funny thing is that Dredd also takes itself pretty damn seriously, but instead of becoming an Achilles’ heel, it blossoms into a core strength that in many ways makes the whole so good. I mean, this is an unusually solid action movie in ways that action movies rarely excel. Since we’re already on the subject, let’s take The Raid: Redemption for example. If you’re jonesing for non-stop ass-kickery that requires a bare minimum of brain activity, you ain’t gonna do much better. It excels and then some in terms of capitalizing on its choreography and letting that carry the weight of everything else, and while everything else is fine, “fine” is an easy bar to raise. So while it may not run on cheetah blood like its Indonesian brother from another mother, Dredd, on the other hand, covers all its bases like a boss.

The writing in particular is definitely above-average for the genre. It’s not without its fair share of familiar scenarios, but I am such a huge fan of scripts that manage to finagle their way through ’em so that they seem brand new. I’m tellin’ ya’, some of those scenes impressed the pants off me. And there’s not much in the way of plot twists or life lessons, but the characters are top-notch and the dialogue is sharp. Most notable is the stellar dynamic between Dredd and the rookie, Judge Anderson. For a role that’s totally out of Olivia Thirlby’s wheelhouse, holy crap, was she a surprise. Absolutely holds her own, handles the character perfectly, and quickly ends up being a real badass in her own fantastic way. Whereas Dredd has the moral compass of a double-sided coin, she’s the voice of reason that keeps things human. It’s a relationship that only gets better, and that’s largely due to her fleshed-out development. It’s a beautiful thing.

And as for Karl Urban, well, up until now, Karl Urban barely existed to me. It wasn’t until someone else reminded me about his role in Star Trek that I even remembered I’d seen him before. Plus, he’s got the same name as a kid I went to high school with, and I was never a big fan of that Karl Urban either. Anyway, I was skeptical at first when it seemed like he was channeling Stallone a little bit harder than anyone in a non-comedic role should be channeling Stallone, but the guy started to grow on me. Certainly helps that Dredd is such a badass character to begin with, although Urban’s presence is what makes it. A risky choice given how few people actually know who the dude is, but a choice that paid off all the same.

Bonus points for casting an unrecognizable Cersei Lannister as the drug lord. Girl rocked that ish.

And then there’s the matter of how it looks, and it looks really good. There isn’t a whole lot of time spent outdoors here, but when we do get the pleasure of seeing Mega City One in all its panoramic glory, it is something else to gawk at. I’m a stickler if there ever was one for visions of the post-apocalypse, and with its stark simplicity of gun-metal greys against an endless backdrop of hazy whites, this one’s a bonafide keeper, folks. And considering how much I hate slow-mo thanks to Zack Snyder’s insistence on filming entire movies in bullet time, this might be the first movie since The Matrix where I actually thought they pulled it off. The trick is the way director Pete Travis elevates it from a worn-out gimmick by piggybacking off the script by Alex Garland that turns Slow-Mo into a plot device. Hard to explain without seeing it in action, but this is the first time in ages where I wasn’t rolling my eyes at this stuff. Again, it’s a beautiful thing.

Plus, the actions scenes are legit. Make no mistake, this is one of the most uber-violent movies I’ve seen in a while. Blood everywhere, the slow-mo makes it that much worse – not really my thing. When it rains, it pours, but at least it comes in waves. Still, it’s generally a total blast. Love that Judge Dredd only has a handgun the entire time, also love that it can do a dozen different things that all get used to great effect. Feel like this is the kind of movie and character that would jump at the chance to take notes from Doom, but there’s something very boss about running train with a pea shooter.

Last year at this time, I never would have imagined myself giving this such a positive review, let alone watching Dredd in the first place without having lost a bet. Man, I’ve been making fun of this movie for weeks now, scoffing at that Tomatometer with a mind that it was doomed, nay, destined to suck. And I know it might look stupid, I know it might be tough to buy any of this with the memory of Judge Dredd still lingering in your memory. But truth be told, it’s some of the most fun I’ve had in a theater all year. For me, this is a watershed moment for the remake craze right now, so much so that I would love to see it become a franchise. Always great when a movie’s so good it makes you want to jump head-first into the source material.

I feel like this is what the Resident Evil series has been trying to pull off for a decade now, only not failing miserably for five straight entries. I don’t care what the box office says, that series is a disgrace to anyone who’s played a Resident Evil game. But hey, if this is how remakes are gonna look from here on out, then I am all about that Battlefield Earth remake.

31 Comments leave one →
  1. HermioneO permalink
    September 28, 2012 8:57 am

    You’ve never heard of Karl Urban? Really? Have you seen Red? How about Doom (Reaper)? Or Lord of the Rings (Eomer), Priest (Blackhat), Star Trek (Bones), Commanche Moon (Woodrow Call), Pathfinder (Ghost), Chronicles of Riddick (Vaako) … the list goes on.


    I saw this film after seeing Resident Evil and it so washed that taste out of my mouth.
    And don’t talk to me about Battlefield Earth. It was the one thing that L. Ron Hubbard did right and his disciples went and ruined it. When I saw that “movie” I nearly cried.

    • October 1, 2012 11:18 am

      With the exception of Start Trek and LotR, all of those movies are pretty darn forgettable/were non-existent to me up until just now. Still, even with Start Trek and LotR under his belt, he didn’t exactly stand out to me in either. Although none of that matters now, because Karl Urban’s a total badass in my book after this.

      And sorry to hear you watched the new Resident Evil fiasco. I hope that was because you lost a bet or something.

      I’ve actually heard a lot of great things about Hubbard as a writer, and I’m not surprised that the movie totally bastardized what was a very promising novel. However, it is one of the best worst movies ever made. Freaking hilarious.

  2. September 28, 2012 11:36 am

    Nice review. I had the same thoughts when I first news of this movie. Trailers look impressive and based on your review looks like the movie will deliver. I love post-apocalyptic action movies; looks like this will my current void. Thanks.

    • October 1, 2012 11:22 am

      Thanks! It totally delivers, far more so than I was expecting it to. Consider that void filled!

  3. allenavw permalink
    September 28, 2012 11:46 am

    Dude, Karl Urban is Eomer!! From only the most epic movie trilogy ever made. For shame. Otherwise though, I love getting your reviews! It’s so awesome to read reviews that are consice, fair, and thoughtful. But it’s also great that you know when it’s a shit fest, it’s just a shit fest and there’s nothing you can do about it. I’m always excited to see your newest review in my inbox.

    • October 1, 2012 11:23 am

      Apparently I need to see the LotR trilogy again, which was gonna happen anyway before The Hobbit in a couple months. Sorry about that one, but the fact remains, Karl Urban ain’t done much for me up until now.

      And thanks! Much appreciate the kind words and I’ll keep writing if you keep reading. Keep it real!

  4. Ryan permalink
    September 28, 2012 1:33 pm

    I’m really pumped this is good. Of course, I thought the Stallone dredd was good too, at least my 9 year old self thought it was good… I’m afraid to give it another watch.

    Your review however leads me to a deeper issue. Do you not love Rob Schneider!? He single handedly gave the gigolo industry the love and respect it deserves.

    • October 1, 2012 11:25 am

      Haha. Cherish those memories and never look back.

      And something told me that I’d get a comment like this from you the moment I wrote that sentence. Rob Schneider had his moments, but that dude needs to bag it up already. Maybe become a real-life gigolo for a while.

  5. September 28, 2012 2:24 pm

    Hey…at least it was better than the original. 🙂

    • October 1, 2012 11:25 am

      Damn right it was! That’s all any of us could have asked for really.

  6. Livi permalink
    September 30, 2012 1:58 pm

    I’m really happy to see that you gave this a good review. I’ve been super pumped for this despite the way it bombed at the box office and how people didn’t seem to be excited about it. But give me some Karl Urban, legitimately awesome slo-mo, and I’m in.

    • October 1, 2012 11:26 am

      Screw the box office and screw the masses. I wasn’t excited about it either, but good movies deserve to be seen. So check it out and get back to me, would love to hear what you think!

      • Livi permalink
        October 1, 2012 12:12 pm

        “Screw the masses” LOL! Yeah, I just might do that! I felt the same way about Prometheus, people were all saying it was such a disappointment and Scott let them down, but I loved it! Who cares what the unwashed vox populi says?

      • October 2, 2012 5:07 pm

        Haha. Think I might agree with the masses on that one, but who cares? What matters is that you liked it, and glad to hear you liked it more than I did. Really wish I could say the same.

  7. September 30, 2012 2:06 pm

    “Dredd” is indeed pretty good… I’m still in shock to be honest with you. Awesome review! LOL @ the “Battlefield Earth” remake suggestion!

    • October 1, 2012 11:27 am

      So am I, man.

      And thanks! Have you ever sat through Battlefield Earth? I actually heard the book is pretty good, but that adaptation is one of the best worst movies ever made, man. Absolutely hilarious.

      • October 1, 2012 5:27 pm

        Yes, I’ve sat through it (squirming). Ha-ha! The book was great.

      • October 2, 2012 5:06 pm

        Yeah, I gotta add that to my reading list, as if it weren’t big enough already.

  8. October 1, 2012 2:05 am

    Cool review. I am very surprised that this is decent. Trailer looked pretty woeful. I will have to check this out.

    • October 1, 2012 11:28 am

      Thanks! “Surprised” is the word. But trust me on this one, it’s worth the trip.

  9. October 1, 2012 5:09 am

    Reblogged this on treatyourlife.

  10. October 9, 2012 12:01 pm

    You’re right: Dredd sucks. Having also watched ‘The Raid’, I’d say that the latter knew its strength (martial arts) and did away with any semblance of a plot.

    • October 9, 2012 12:53 pm

      Whoa, wait. Do mean Judge Dredd? Because that totally sucked. Dredd, on the other hand, was awesome.

      And that was definitely the double-edged sword of The Raid, though that one edge was awfully sharp.

  11. Heche permalink
    October 21, 2012 6:31 pm

    I was really surprised by how enjoyable this movie was.

    The only thing that I thought was kinda “eh” was how the girl had to run around without her helmet on because it impaired her telepathy, despite being shown to be able to read the other Judges’ minds through their own respective helmets (run on sentence XD). Maybe they explain that in the comics?

    • October 28, 2012 12:31 pm

      You said it.

      And that’s a very good point. Maybe it’s like a reverse Magneto thing? Idk, I need to read the comics like you said. Still, awesome movie, huh?

  12. Dannyboy permalink
    January 1, 2013 2:40 pm

    You have to be completely brain dead if you get past the first 3 minutes of this movie without simulatinously puking and throughing yourself of a tall cliff….. To intellectually articulate why this is a bad movie is a waiste of time, just like reading you positive review…

    • January 15, 2013 5:39 pm

      Now, let’s be honest here, that right there is a pretty extreme reaction to any moviegoing experience. Apparently my brain died when I was just a wee fetus, but hey, I’m cool with it. Sorry to hear you didn’t like it, man. Sure do hope with all my might that I can redeem myself in your eyes one of these days. It would truly mean the world.

  13. January 13, 2013 7:52 am

    Shit movie, “”Dredd takes dumb rookie, gets caugh in drug war, kills and and gets out”- there whole movie in 1 sentence. Awfull acting that makes Stallones acting look like Godfathers level. Action? What action? ye slap 3 miniguns and shoot walls, ye thats so “good” action at these modern times… and fanservice scene of andersons getting mindfucked (literally) by that hostage guy they had was so under good taste, reallly? make cliche “lets have mindsex cox shes a psychic” . So glad i didnt pay a dime for this crap movie. do yourselves a favor and download the movie , thats only way ppl stop making this bad movies. Those who think this was good or better than 1995 have no taste in good action movies other than “round them up and shoot them up” -action genre should hang their heads in shame.

    PS: Those who think fast skinning alive and throwing (gasp) from balcony makes grimm AD 2000 story? go read the magazines about mutants and Dredd going to fight into future with anderson, now that would have made good storyline


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