A Review of Dredd: Reserved Judgment
makes for a difficult film review. Without having seen the trailer, seeing bits and pieces of the horrible, glossy, over-produced Sylvester Stallone original film adaptation, and knowing very little about the comic book source material, I came in the theaters
without any expectations. At the very least, I was hoping for some pretty good action. Instead, I was thrown into two separate reactions at once.
As for science fiction, Dredd
is quite successful. It presents the world -- a post-apocalyptic world that is trying to survive, a walled mega-city that spans from as far as Boston to Washington DC -- that is filled with crime and infected with chaos and the only enforcement of order are the judges. The judges are bad-ass policemen
who are highly trained, well-equipped, and serve as judge, jury, and executioner for the hundreds and thousands of crimes that are committed on a daily basis. The few judges
there are can only serve to do as much as they can as the whole city is rife with dissidence. While there is no real example of what life is like for the everyday person and how the city operates and sustains itself, it is grimy and gritty and unpolished. It serves a fantastic visual backdrop of a future in the throes of chaos.
He is ordered to accompany and evaluate a rookie judge by the name of Anderson (played by Olivia Thirlby, Juno
and No Strings Attached
), who happens to be a mutant with powerful psychic abilities. As Dredd and Anderson investigate a triple homicide in the Peach Trees megablock, a 200-floor residential
monolith that is best described as high-rise slum district, they discover the narcotics
operations of Ma-ma (played by Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
), a violent and merciless former prostitute turned drug lord. Anderson's evaluation becomes a deadly battle of survival as she and Dredd are trapped and hunted down by a whole megablock that's out to get them.
In terms of action, Dredd is filled with it. It's graphic and brutal. It's in your face and loaded with testosterone that all action-buffs would be very happy with. The element of danger is constant and Headey is frightening as the heartless Ma-ma. Headey is unpredictable and emotionless, almost inhuman in her severity. And what makes her even more frightening is that she's smart. She thinks ahead. She's a villain you'd be afraid of.
Judge Dredd is played by Karl Urban, but due to the sparse dialogue and the constant helmet, you only really see his mouth; he could be played by anybody. Covered head-to-foot in Kevlar-esque body suit, Judge Dredd is removed from any semblance of humanity. Dredd moves efficiently and quickly, like a robot
. There is no false bravado. He comes in and he judges and he kills. This is not a hero. And that might be the film's failing. Unable to relate or to connect with the main character, you are just witness to this dazzling display of violence. Is it possible to root for a machine? The only bits of flesh of Urban that can be see is his mouth and that is in a perpetual scowl or snarl. Sure, he's bad-ass but he's not a person. He's a personification of extreme justice
On the flip-side, and the film's saving grace, is the beguiling Olivia Thirlby. As a psychic, she is constantly aware of other people's thoughts and emotions. She has a little bit more of a backstory and she is haunted, for sure, by something terrible in her past and this gives her pathos that you can connect with. Lucky for Thirlby, the judge helmets interfere with her psionic abilities and so we see her face throughout the film. Thirlby is amazing, drawing you in with her determination to be a judge, to be equal to Dredd's fearlessness and yet, still affected by the thoughts and emotions of the people around her. She's the real draw to this film because she's the human element that we root for.For the movie-makers (both old hands and neophytes): here's some hardcore gear for your cinematic pursuits --- the new Canon cinema lenses for 4K resolution cameras!
So it was very polarizing, for me, seated in the cinema and enjoying the no-holds-barred blood
and gore and violence, rooting for Anderson, and in a sick and twisted way, cheering for Ma-ma. The sound engineering and mixing
was phenomenal and this film should be seen in a Dolby theater because the sound effects and mixing is expertly done.
But when I don't care whether the main character lives or dies, the character who the title of the film is named after, there's something wrong there. That's the only reason why I can't give myself completely to this film. And maybe that's what the creative team
wanted. This is a presentation of a world gone wrong, of a world where justice has to be swift and cold and measured without pity or remorse. I don't know if I want to live in a world like this. And if Judge Dredd is the representation of what is needed, I don't know if I like him too. Thank God there's Anderson then.Juice Recommends:
If you want a love story with emotional twists and roller-coaster turns, then Ruby Sparks is the movie for you.Or, if you want more action and blood, check out Sipat Lawin's Battalia Royale!