“As For You, Ma-Ma . . . Judgment Time.”

I haven’t finished my Iron Man 3 review yet — work keeps getting in the way, dammit, and also writing that could, at least potentially, make me some money, and reading too, because The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is the BEST — but I do at least have a Baby Review for you.

dredd

I’d planned to see this in theater (mostly because I kept hearing good things about it, which surprised me) but I never quite got there. So my friend Denise and I did a little movie exchange: she borrowed my copy of the original The Thing, and I borrowed this.

Dredd is a lot of fun, but it’s getting the Baby Review treatment today, partially because I’m a busy nerd who wants to get back to her regularly scheduled reading time, but also because I just don’t have a lot to say about it. I can’t compare it to the original comics because I’ve never read them. I can’t compare it to the Sylvester Stallone movie because I’ve, thankfully, never seen it. And the film makes absolutely no attempt to be any deeper than it needs to be. Judge Dredd himself (Karl Urban) has virtually no kind of character development or backstory of any kind. They tell you absolutely nothing about him, just that he’s a badass. Sometimes, I’m okay with that. This is one of those times.

Here’s what I can say about Dredd:

1. Despite being set in a dystopian America where crime is so prevalent that the police are authorized to be judge, juries, and executioners, Dredd has a very similar plot set-up to The Raid: Redemption, an Indonesian martial-arts action movie that I also really liked.

raid poster

2. Karl Urban is fun as Dredd, all stern and badass and very Clint Eastwood — who apparently was a big inspiration for the character in the comic books. Also, he never takes off his helmet, which is apparently a Big Deal. (It’s okay. I can wait a couple of weeks to see Karl Urban’s pretty face in Star Trek: Into Darkness.)

3. Olivia Thirlby plays Dredd’s new, psychic, probationary partner, and she gets the unenviable task of being the I Must Learn The Will to Kill girl — at least to an extent — but she does the job pretty decently, I think, and overall I like her quite a bit.

4. Also, psychic showdowns? Kind of awesome. I love it when mental battles are actually done well in movies.

5. Lena Headey continues to be a Bad Ass in all things.

dredd-lena-headey-ma-ma

5. This is the rare film where all the slow-motion action is actually highly plot relevant and surprisingly works pretty well. (I do think they use it maybe one or two more times than they need to, and occasionally the shiny-ness of it all is a little silly and would probably look better with a bigger budget, but overall it works.)

6. Decent foreshadow and set-up in this movie. I can’t go into detail without spoilers, but I approve. I also like that this isn’t a big Save the World story, that it’s just a job, one day’s violent BS in a long string of violent BS-filled days. That works for me.

7. Dredd is a pretty violent film, which also works for me. There are a few surprising moments too, just stuff you don’t normally see in action movies like this — like what might happen to innocent bystanders during those big cop car chase sequences — and I enjoyed those little moments.

CONCLUSIONS:

Fun, solid action flick.

MVP:

Karl Urban. He basically has to do all of his acting with his voice and chin, so even if there isn’t much in the way of character to explore — you need a strong lead to sell this.

TENTATIVE GRADE:

B+

MORAL:

There is no negotiation.

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11 Responses to “As For You, Ma-Ma . . . Judgment Time.”

  1. Brandon says:

    I went into Dredd with my friend and roommate and we were doing it completely on a whim. We fully expected to hate this movie or at least have a “so bad its hilarious” session. We were absolutely stunned by it. The art direction is stellar and while the script never gets too weighty, I found I preferred it that way. Like you, I appreciated that this was just “a day on the job”.

    The best thing about the film, for me, is that it works *as a film*. This didn’t even have to be an adaption of the Judge Dredd character, it could have been its own film with no ties to anything else and it still would have worked every bit as well.

    • Agreed. I didn’t read the comics or see the original movie — which I’m sure is immensely terrible — but that didn’t matter. Dredd worked awesomely on its own, and that’s what adaptations are supposed to do.

  2. Dave Nielsen says:

    Pretty much exactly what I thought. I too haven’t seen the Stallone version or read the comics but I have seen clips of Stallone and some other guy seemingly endlessly screaming the word law at each other. I went in to this one without high expectations and was pleasently surprised. They managed to even make Ma Ma somewhat sympathetic – although it seemed unnecessary to take that dude’s eyes. (Fun fact – he’s the son of Brendan Gleeson, of Braveheart, Gangs of New York and lots of other stuff.)

    This is the rare film where all the slow-motion action is actually highly plot relevant and surprisingly works pretty well. (I do think they use it maybe one or two more times than they need to, and occasionally the shiny-ness of it all is a little silly and would probably look better with a bigger budget, but overall it works.)

    That’s part of what I really liked about it. A lot of times these days – in fact, almost always – the slo-mo is used gratuitously but here it made sense. I agree about the shiny-ness though. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it so I can’t say that I thought they overused it. It’s hard to remember.

    Overall, very fun. When I heard the whole movie took place inside the building I wondered if it might be boring. Then, while I hadn’t seen it, I’d heard so much bad about the Stallone version. And, while this would probably anger hardcore Dredd fans (of the comic) I also find the Judge uniform to be pretty ridiculous – especially the helmet. Wonder police SWAT types have helmets that cover their whole face – why would the Judges leave part of their face exposed like that?

  3. Dave Nielsen says:

    Wonder police SWAT types have helmets that cover their whole face – why would the Judges leave part of their face exposed like that?

    I meant to say Modern not Wonder. Too bad we shitmuchers can’t edit our own comments. 🙂

  4. Claire says:

    I saw it in 3d in theaters and it was amazing! Sadly I do not think it made enough money to make the trilogy like the director wanted. Also, I have seen the Stallone version and it is just so so awful.

  5. Dave Nielsen says:

    The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is the BEST

    Except I guess the title?

  6. Teacups says:

    I watched this on Netflix while in need of something action-y, fun, and not too heavy. It matched what I was looking for excellently, and I enjoyed it a lot. I liked Anderson, I really liked Headey’s half-bored performance as Ma-Ma, I liked seeing Avon Barksdale in something else.

    My main thought on Judge Dredd himself was that he looked like Grumpy Cat in a helmet, actually, which made me laugh every time we got a good look at his face. (In fairness to both Karl Urban and the movie, I understand that’s the expression Dredd’s always wearing in the comics, too.) But this in no way diminished my enjoyment, and given I wasn’t taking the movie too seriously, it’s not like it ruined the mood.

    If they ever get the sequel off the ground, I’ll most probably check that one out too.

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