Rickly's Review - Dredd (Spoiler-Free)
As a fan of 2000 AD as well as the tales of Judge Dredd carved by John Wagner and illustrated by Carlos Ezquerra, I was eager to see if the Stallone-travesty would be washed away and if the dystopian, action-packed strip would be done justice (no pun intended) on the big screen.
...Justice remains faceless and Judgement has finally come...
Well...fans of the strip can rest assured...Pete Travis' direction of Alex Garland's script neatly comes full-circle in a timely and gory representation of the dire and dark charisma that is Joseph Dredd. The plot isn't anything intricate...and this simple formula of a story is not symptomatic of Hollywood's CBMS these days. The shortcomings of the story no doubt are alleviated by the scowling Karl Urban, who really brings Dredd to life in a grim, coarse...and just badass manner. There's non-stop action streamlined into profanity and explicit violence but Urban does well to maintain a pedigree that shines on the screen, while keeping the enigma of Dredd intact.
Fans of the source lore would see current worldwide social dilemmas and societal downfalls poured into Mega-City as there wasn't that much emphasis placed of the aesthetic future element in design. This adds a rough layer that brings out more humanity in the City as well as the Judges. The gangbangers are pretty similar to the normal LA gunslingers (and seeing END OF WATCH just before this gave me too much gunfire for one night)...and there's that simple template Travis used again rearing its head.
Urban is solid as he and a rookie, Anderson, navigate the catacombs of Ma-Ma's drug lair. With the 2 Judges on the lam, Travis had quite a task of distinguishing Judge Anderson. She's well brought forward from the book with her psychic ability, and Thirlby, in her own sexiness, adds a bit of innocence and charm, that Dredd lacks purposely. She's a good foil to cement Dredd as heartless and by-the-book. At times, Thirlby seems misplaced but so does the plot. Of course it gets a bit ludicrous at times, but when there's ambiguity and doubt setting in, Urban takes the reins and delivers.
Ma-Ma isn't that memorable as Lena Heady offers nothing more than the barking of orders, and lacks the conniving conviction of Cersei in GOT. The action scenes, even the 'slo-mo' scenes, are also not a main focus, as Travis wants to cultivate the jury and executioner feel that Dredd wants to pass to his rookie via real-time shootouts...western-style at times. It's all business and just like the strip dictated, there's no time for fun and games. The plot's misgivings are well made up for in the final act which shows Dredd and Anderson as calculating and direct. The final scenes take away from the climax but that's exactly the cold feel Dredd's always been known for. I don't know if Judge Death could be coming up, don't know if Dredd's origins would be expanded on after a tease...heck...I don't know if the box-office failure would get a sequel greenlit...but I do know that despite an iffy plot, the movie hinges and flows well on its main strength...in the brilliant and efficient performance of Karl Urban. The average plot reminded me of X-Men: First Class...enjoyable because of the 2 leads...seems that formula works wonders more than once!!!
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