Genre(s): Action, Science Fiction
Director(s): Pete Travis
Release Year: 2012
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Earlier this year, an incredible and inventive action flick came out entitled The Raid: Redemption. It featured a team of police officers fighting through floor after floor of an apartment complex, showcasing a stunning masterpiece of editing and martial arts. Guns were used very little in the film, which gave it a more personal touch, and utilized music to build up fight sequences, which could last for about 10 minutes. Delivering suspense, expert editing, impressive choreography, and some brutal violence, the film quickly rose to critical success and is one of my favourite action films I’ve seen. Going into Dredd, I knew two things to expect based on other critics: the film was going to be reminiscent of The Raid: Redemption, and the three leads in the film were great. What Dredd amalgamates to is an obvious copy of The Raid: Redemption, with a heavier focus on being gory than brutal, and though Karl Urban and Olivia Thirlby are good in their roles, it is Lena Headey who plows through the painful dialogue to deliver the best performance in the film.
It might be unfair to some that I criticize Dredd for being the same film as The Raid: Redemption because it was in development at the same time, but it’s not just that. I think Dredd offers something unique that the other film doesn’t, but the film is not anywhere near as good as The Raid: Redemption because of its lack of intensity. They are two different films, with a eerily similar concept, but Dredd is a movie that flourishes on its visuals and gore than anything else. There are scenes in this film that will blow you away because you may not have seen something like that done previously (a certain point of view shot in the end of the film really awed me), but then there are many moments where you can predict what’s going to happen next due to the procedural nature of Judge Dredd (Urban).
So what is the story for Dredd? Well, it’s very simple. Judge Dredd is forced to apprentice a young psychic, Anderson (Thirlby) who wants to also be a Judge in Mega City One. They follow up on a triple murder in the Peach Trees apartment complex, where they find the person who killed the men and attempt to take him in to their headquarters, the Hall of Justice, so they can interrogate them. The owner of the apartment complex, Ma-ma (Headey), doesn’t want them to interrogate him because he will tell them something that could ruin her entire operation. So of course, she locks down the building, and tells her residents she wants them dead, and what follows is a bloodbath and barrage of bullets that becomes tiresome very soon. And if you weren’t tired by that, you can attempt to enjoy the unique visual style that’s given from the slow motion in the film, usage of which is cleverly incorporated via a drug called ‘Slo-Mo’. Though I do have to give props for them not going the route of Resident Evil: Retribution and other films littered with slow motion, and actually giving it a reason to be there. Unfortunately, the film utilizes it way too long, but in short spurts, letting you get some breathing room before the next long-winded sequence occurs.
So far I haven’t completely built my case here as to why The Raid: Redemption set the precedent before Dredd could. If the fact that both films have a lack of story isn’t enough (though Dredd‘s secondary story about Anderson’s assessment is handled better than the brother storyline that’s shoehorned into The Raid: Redemption), they also have very similar scenes. There’s an instance where they’re about to get caught but in a last-minute effort get into an apartment of someone who Anderson is able to coax into letting them in. Then you have a scene that takes place in a drug lab. There are some more spoiler-ish scenes later on that are also very similar, and then there are merely problems in terms of cliches that just shouldn’t be done anymore. I’m talking about scenes where someone is about to die, but they take forever to finally do the deed. There are two instances of this and they really stand out because of how poorly they’re handled. There was an instance of interrogation from Anderson that I really enjoyed because of its visual flourishes and mental trickery, and more of those instances would have been really nice.
If Dredd does have anything going for it, it’s the use of visuals that make the film unique. There’s a grittiness to it that fits the Judge Dredd universe, but then there are the moments when people are using ‘Slo-Mo’ that showcases an abundance of beautiful eye-candy. The atmosphere for this film was set just right, but I think the film could have benefited from a larger scale setting than just one apartment complex. There’s a chase scene in the beginning that had my adrenaline going, and helped introduce Judge Dredd as a tough, but honest character. Unfortunately, Urban doesn’t get to do much acting in the film besides keeping a stern face, since he doesn’t even remove his helmet once (not a problem, just shows how hard it would be to emote). He plays the character of Judge Dredd to a tee, but because his character is so emotionless, the film has to find it through Olivia Thirlby’s character, who also ends up acting as a moral compass in the film.
There’s a few memorable moments in Dredd that make it worth seeing, but for those who have already seen The Raid: Redemption, it’s really hard to justify seeing an inferior version of what is basically the same film. The only real difference being this is in a post-apocalyptic world so there are some additions to the universe that The Raid: Redemption simply couldn’t have. Dredd is ultimately a gritty reboot that is better than its previous incarnation, but overstays its welcome with overplayed elements and cliches that could have been handled in a much more effective manner. The visuals in this film and its atmosphere are really what sets this movie apart from many others of its kind, so there’s some reasons to see the movie, but for someone like me who absolutely loved The Raid: Redemption, I cannot recommend this film because of its overwhelming similarities.
Overall: Not Recommended