“Welcome to the inside of your head. It’s kind of empty in here.”
The America of the post-apocalyptic future is an irradiated wasteland, a vast, ultraviolent world where criminals control the mean city streets. Ultimate law enforcers like Dredd and his new partner, Anderson, are Judges-the only force battling for justice. Dispatched by the central authority, the Judges’ target is Ma-Ma, a ruthless boss bent on expanding her criminal empire through sales of Slo-Mo, a dangerous reality-altering drug. With Dredd calling the shots, the two Judges declare full-scale war on crime in this unrelenting and brutal thrill ride.
If there was any movie that needed a good revamp, it was this one right here. My history with this particular property is what you would call nominal – first heard about this cult favorite sci-fi comic book character by way of the song “I Am The Law” by Anthrax, then watched the 1995 movie adaptation starring Sylvester “I am da’ LAW!” Stalone, which was, like a lot of comic book based action movies in the 1990s, entertaining for all the wrong intended reasons. So then the 2013 adaptation – simply titled Dredd – came out, and since I was once again getting rather burned out by the recent crop of comic book-based action movies (not to mention remakes in general), I passed on the initial theatrical run, and even the DVD rental, despite the gushing praise my fellow interwebs critics were heaping on this. So, when I finally saw this on the streaming, I decided to give this movie a proper watch. In proper jaded fashion, I hit play, sat back, and prepared to be underwhelmed.
Just to recap the background story (which is done for you by way of voiceover narration in the beginning of the film), it’s the post-Apocalyptic future, and humanity dwells in urban superstructures known as Megacities. Crime is rampant, as happens when billions of people are crammed together in dirty urban sprawl like this, so the streets are patrolled by Judges – specialized law enforcement officials who act as police, judge, jury and executioner on the spot. No muss, no fuss. Put a lot of lawyers out of work, I’m sure. One such Judge – our titular Dredd – is legendary, as he seems to be a cold, hardened and emotionless enforcer of The Law, never taking off his helmet and sporting a perma-scowl and the manliest stubble this side of Miami Vice-era Don Johnson.
The story in Dredd sees the cuddly-wuddly Judge being assigned a rookie on her first outing in patrolling Megacity, a rookie that turns out to have a mutant ability that proves to be beneficial. Good thing, too, as her first day is spent being trapped with Judge Dredd inside the Peach Trees city block, locked down by the gang kingpen who oversees the manufacture of a drug called Slo-Mo, for the express purpose of offing the two Judges. Wackiness ensues, as you may have guessed by now.
I must admit, Dredd was a rather good sci-fi action flick. Having more of a claustrophobic setting – it takes place in a massive skyscraper-like building that houses over 25,000 people – the action was tense, and got rather frantic at times there. Yeah, I know the premise is hardly original. But I’ll be gigity if Dredd wasn’t entertaining, far better than the campy 1995 attempt. Karl Urban made for a much more convincing Dredd than Stallone did, and not just because his helmet stays on throughout the entire movie. And need I even have to point this out? NO ROB SCHNIDER. That alone makes it better.
Overall, I have to consent that Dredd was a rather good adaptation of the comic book, and should have gotten more love than it did upon the theatrical release. Do what I did: if it’s the bad taste of the Stalone version that’s keeping you from watching Dredd, or even if you consider the Stalone version to be the definitive film classic, get over yourselves and give Dredd a watch. You shan’t be sorry.
Heh, I just said “shan’t”.