Dredd (R) - Runtime: 95 minutes
Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Heady
Director: Pete Travis
Writer: Alex Garland
Here's a movie I was on the fence about when it came out. I just thought this movie looked more like a really bad B-movie than anything worth watching. But it had really strong reviews and for the most part has been overlooked in this superhero-crazy age of Hollywood. While Dredd may not be a straight-up superhero movie, it certainly has all the trappings. But instead of some boring origin plot or providing us with a ton of backstory to the universe Dredd dwells in, writer Alex Garland chooses instead to drop us in the middle of a typical (at least for Dredd) day as Mega City One's only law-enforcement agency, the Judges. And it's absolutely fantastic.
Judge Dredd is the law. He is all black and white and there is no room for anything else. It just so happens that today he gets stuck with a rookie named Anderson - a tiny woman with psychic abilities who may not be qualified to be a good Judge, but her power gives her a leg up on everyone else. Meanwhile, in Peach Trees, a 200-story slum tower, Ma-Ma is in control. She is a ruthless prostitute-turned-gangster who is peddling a new drug called slo-mo. When you inhale, your brain processes everything as slow motion. When Dredd and rookie Anderson decide to investigate a brutal triple homicide, they get trapped inside the tower with thousands of people trying to kill them.
It's an oh-shit moment when the doors get locked and there's no way out. I just kept thinking how the hell are they going to get out? That's the beauty of this film - it's a complete rush and no moment is wasted. The action is superb - it's highly stylized and the slo-mo drug makes for some amazing visuals as Dredd pops caps in people's skulls, torsos and limbs. Blood and guts fly everywhere and it is a glorious site to behold. It really is quite mesmerizing, but that's just part of the greatness of this movie.
Karl Urban's performance is the best thing about this movie. Neither playing it tongue-in-cheek, nor being too robotic, Urban manages to present Dredd as a logical, best-solution at-hand kind of person. He has no sympathy for people violating the law and even though we never see his whole face, we continue to root for this guy. What could have been a bad prop design for comic effect (that oversized helmet!) is actually seen as pretty badass. It's all because of Urban's performance and the way the film's tone is set. Kudos to everyone involved because this film could have been just as bad as the original Judge Dredd with Stallone.
As for the rest of the cast, Heady is simply maniacal as Ma-Ma. She's simply sadistic and the perfect foil to Dredd's no-bullshit attitude. Olivia Thirlby is actually quite good, too. She looks a little ridiculous in her outfit, but you stop caring after the first 15 minutes when you're seeing people's bellies and heads explode. She doesn't wear a helmet (it would affect her psychic abilities), but that gives a little bit more emotional heft to her story as you can see more emotion on her face.
This is one quick thrill ride that I'm going to have to go back to - it's a tightly-scripted and well-executed action movie. There's plenty of violence and awesome action to satisfy anyone and there's enough of a story to bring some emotional weight to the plot. It's simply an addicting film - the visuals are enough to give it a look. But there's so much to this film and I couldn't recommend this more!
Rating: Own It!