Dredd may be “the law”, but is it the precedent?

Dredd 3D Theatrical Poster

TitleDredd
Genre(s)Action, Science Fiction
Director(s)Pete Travis
Release Year2012
IMDB7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes78%

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).

Yes, as you can see on the right, Avon Barksdale does make an appearance. And it’s not a small role either.

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.

Wouldn’t it be great if it was actually Sylvester Stallone under that helmet? I’m calling it.

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 

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7 responses to “Dredd may be “the law”, but is it the precedent?

    • I’ll be honest, the film is good. But it’s like eating spaghetti after you’ve had lasagna. Why would you downgrade from the best pasta (The Raid: Redemption) to a lesser one (Dredd)? It’s not a bad film, it just has the unfortunate problem of coming out late.

      • You do know that the screenplay for Dredd was leaked in july 2010 and was widely available on the internet, right? You do know that Gareth Evans was going to do a movie called Berandal (laer re-written as Raid 2: Berandal), but didn’t have enough money and quickly developed Raid instead, by his own admission? You do know that Evans is a Welshman, born in UK, the country where Judge Dredd comics are made? You do know that principal photography of Dredd started Nov 2011 and took 3 months, while Raid went to development in Dec 2011 and was shot in March? I’m just speculating here, but your lasagna just may have taken most of the story from the spaghetti and added new fight scenes on top. Funny that you should mention pasta, since this is like a reversal of what Leone did to Kurosawa, when he took the story from the samurai movie Yojimbo and made his spaghetti western A Fistful of Dollars.

  1. Since Dredd was in production before The Raid is seems mightily unfair to downgrade it because of that coincidence – assuming it is a coincidence of them having similar storylines. Telling people Dredd was a copy is just plain factually inaccurate, as even the Dredd script was leaked before the Raid filmed. Marking a movie down because of the time it comes out rather than its intrinsic values seems kinda off. What is a film “late” for exactly anyway, it’s done when it’s done. And given that hardly anyone at all saw The Raid I hope your recommending people not to see Dredd simply because you personally happened to see the Raid first didn’t influence the low turnout for Dredd.

    • Thanks for the comment! I am not recommending Dredd because of my experience with it. Nothing more. Because I saw Raid before Dredd affected my viewing experience, and thus my rating of it. It feels very reminiscent in many instances. If you haven’t seen The Raid, you’ll love Dredd. But what I rate films on are my own viewing experience. Not only that though, but I do mention that the slo-mo overstays its welcome, and the film feels very padded. There is more than just it being a similar film that affected my decision. At no point do I call the film a straight copy, they are different films, but there are tons of similarities. It’s just unfortunate, that is all.

      • “At no point do I call the film a straight copy” versus “What Dredd amalgamates to is an obvious copy of The Raid: Redemption”. Admittedly the second sentence is so grammatically tortured the intended meaning is unclear, but I don’t think anyone would read that sentence and not think you’d called one film a copy of the other.

        Your later clarification is also misleading; although the post-production period of Dredd overlapped with the shooting, post and release of The Raid, Dredd was already in the can by the time pre-production on The Raid began. Like you say, it’s very unfortunate.

      • I’ve been had! Alright, I’ll admit then that I did say it is a straight copy of the film. Though, I will also say lately I’ve been wanting to watch it again. To say it doesn’t have similar sequences to The Raid would be ridiculous, but it is still an entertaining film in certain other aspects. I still don’t think anyone should do a double-feature night of it because it will feel like watching the same movie twice at times, but if you spread out when you watch them you should be fine.

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