A film like Dredd is an easy one to ignore. On the surface it looks like a cheesy B-movie, whose action and excessive gore would bore you half way through but Dredd is more than just that. It is a character study about a man who is fueled by violence. Dredd is a gritty B-movie filled with dead pan humour, self-satire and enough blood and gore satisfy your bloodlust.
Dredd takes place in a dystopian future. Most of America has become an irradiated wasteland. Humanity still survives, living in vast walled metropolis’. On the East coast lies one of these cities, Mega City One. It is a place that has fallen to the gangs and scum, crime has become a norm. The only thing keeping order lies with The Judges, men and women who have the power to sentence and execute punishment upon criminals on the spot. Dredd (Karl Urban) is one of the men who exacts this type of law enforcement.
Dredd doesn’t take long to set up. Showing its bleak world, without the use of a lot special effects. What the film coneys is a nightmarish city, that would more closely resemble our own. Sure there are a few futuristic aspects to the city but it doesn’t detract away that this could be one you live in. This was most likely done because of Dredd’s modest budget but it helps the film, creating a real world and a tight and simple story.
The story will feel like you’ve heard or seen it before. If you’ve seen The Raid, then you are already aware of the plot structure that Dredd will follow. Dredd and his partner Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) are sent to, Peach Trees, one of the many 200 storey apartment complexes, that houses the poor and is completely run by gangs. They arrive to investigate a string of murders and soon arrest the murderer but the whole complex is locked down by Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), a psychotic prostitute who turned herself into an overlord of the building, she fears the prisoner might reveal information under interrogation. To escape Dredd must journey from the first floor all the way to floor number 200, to stop Ma-Ma.
The simple plot and the hour and 35 minutes runtime benefits the film. It makes for a tight and cohesive experience. With no real standout set piece, Dredd feels like one giant action sequence. Although, the action may not standout but the violence is spectacular. Bullets tear apart people in slow-motion, people collide with concrete, people are dismembered or flayed alive. It’s absolutely brutal but it sells a world that would need a man like Dredd.
Karl Urban plays a great Dredd. A grizzled and unstoppable man. He doesn’t tolerate the bullshit of others and he does not negotiate, so it was satisfying to see writer Alex Garland not punctuate moments with witty one-liners or quips. He’s doing a job that requires him to deal with the absolute worst of humanity and doing his job well would result in a grimace or a tired response. It makes the character a lot more intimidating. Dredd never takes off his helmet and in doing so you never connect with the character and I don’t think we are ever supposed too. That is why Dredd’s partner Anderson exists. She is the counter point to Dredd’s remoteness.
Through Anderson and her psychic abilities we find out more abour this closed off man. It’s her first day on the job and we are able to experience the brutality of her job as she does. Soon even she begins to find her groove, dishing out justice and punishment her own way. The rest of the characters, however, are merely plot points that push the story forward. Either giving exposition or being an adversary for Dredd and Anderson to go up against.
Dredd is a simple action film. Most action films these days are more concerned about big set pieces than telling a character story. The reason Dredd succeeds is because it’s more concerned about it’s two characters than bathing in its violence. It’s simple and tight storytelling, is one that entertains and reintroduces this character to modern audiences.
Score: 8 out of 10