Mega City is a futuristic city that's filled with crime and drugs, particularly a new drug called Slow Mo, a Jet looking narcotic that dues exactly what it's name implies. In this God forgotten land the only thing that prevents it from falling apart are the Judges, the ultimate judge jury and executioner. We follow Judge Dredd, an incorruptible Judge, and a Judge candidate on a drug raid but what seemed to be a normal day of 'protect and serve' turns into something bigger.
Since its home release "Dredd" has become quite a big cult film, to the point of fans demanding a sequel, so finally I watched it and while I highly enjoyed it, it also disappointed me. "Dredd" has solid acting for an action film (props to Karl Urban for committing to this character thus not showing his face, which is quite rare for a lead actor), an eye catching visual style, competent world building for its budget, good use of violence (even though at times is not needed), action sequences that are well shot (no shaky cam nor quick edits here), a score that's hit or miss but when it does hit it is fantastic, a story that's wisely small in scale (it is not about stopping the world's end or the destruction of a city), and it is overall highly enjoyable. But despite all of its great elements, I have to say I find this film underwhelming. Peter Travis' direction is an attempt to replicate Paul Verhoeven (this film is quite similar to "Robocop", a character that was inspired by Dredd but now the pendulum has swung), the CGI is extremely bad (something that normally can be overlooked but the film keeps putting that cheap CGI up front thus making it hard to forgive), and the violence is tamed. Sure we see some graphic stuff but it is all digital, when this needed that excessive Verhoeven use of squibs (I don't know about you but I prefer makeup over CGI when it comes to violence and every time a digital squib appeared it took me out).
"Dredd" is a solid film that truly deserves its cult following. It desperately tries to imitate Verhoeven's style and while it fails at that, it does succeed in being a fantastic sci-fi action film. An extremely enjoyable and stylish action film that knows what it is/what's capable of and goes for it.
Let's just get this straight, the film is not bad. It's actually quite good, but it's serviceable at best. Now this isn't the first movie based off of this property and my god is this film better then Judge Dredd but then again I don't need to tell you that because well, it's really not hard to be better than Judge Dredd is it? For a start Dredd never takes off his helmet. The Judge himself, Karl Urban, knows what the character is and his history, and plays up the gruffness and the chin to absurd levels, that verge on the comedic. And in the end I think that means the Robocop comparison really isn't that far off because like Robocop this is some macabre comedy that in the way of Evil Dead II, gets a lot of it's comedy just from how over the top and campy it is. When they want to eliminate the judges what do they do? The break out the mounted gattling guns and take out a whole floor. When you want to kill someone selling someone else's drugs on your turf what do you do? You skin them, drug them with the film's drug of the week slo-mo and drop them from 200 stories. The problem here is, is that when the film wants to be serious it feels incredibly flat. For example Lena Heady, (Game of Thrones) is great as the villain in any other movie of this type, she does play it incredibly straight, so when she's on screen with Dredd it makes for an interesting dynamic but for most of the time she just comes across as not quite as funny as Jack Nicholson in The Departed. In truth it really does seem like Karl Urban and the filmmakers were the only ones in on the joke, because the violence is incredibly over the top in a very Robocop, Total Recall, Paul Verhoeven way.
I do love Alex Garland, (Ex_Machina, 28 Days Later..., Sunshine), but I feel like maybe his script didn't quite understand that the over the top violent aspect was what people loved about the comics which may have caused some confusion. However he has done something right, all the best dystopian stories, from Blade Runner to 1984, just have a very personal, smaller story set inside a larger world, and they use that to help realise the world they're in properly, which is why the trapped-in-a-highrise conceit works so brilliantly. And the film looks beautiful, if a bit over saturated, that may have been what they were going but for me it just doesn't work.
In the end it was unfortunate this film came out after The Raid because you can't help comparisons, the action in the raid is beautiful and balletic and brutal and exciting, where as in Dredd it's more like the head explosion in Scanners but slightly less fun, only slightly though. It has slow motion violence that's similar to, but nearly as good as, the elevator sequence in Drive, and in the end all these comparisons are inevitable but unfortunate because I'm spending the whole movie thinking off all these movies I like more than Dredd.
My disappointment stems from the hype around the movie. I do regret not seeing it in 3D in a big screen theater.