To be clear: this is not the Stallone picture That-Should-Not-Be-Named.
Having said this – every frame is a love letter. This is the best representation of Judge Dredd, with enough loving details that a hard core fan can appreciate and direct enough to find new fans and carry them along
I’m not a fan of the comic, and honestly, my only other exposure to him is a song by Anthrax and the odd Batman/Dredd cross-over. Watching this movie however, gives me new appreciation of Karl Urban and the skills he brings to this movie. He is a fan, and his performance is one of the best I’ve seen. He carries himself with the grim importance that the Judge has inspired. Like I said, I don’t know much about the world, but everything is laid out in a quick manner. There are few exposition dumps, and the ones that happen lead to other things being revealed later on.
Karl Urban isn’t the only bright spot. Olivia Thirlby turns in a good performance as Anderson. She brings a rookie’s energy to the show, and we see those layers quickly stripped away, but what’s left is certainly not shy about interacting with the world she inhabits.
Then there’s Lena Headly.
Want to see Cersei if she were born to a commoner’s family. It’s Ma-Ma, and holy hell is she scary. Anyone else would have turned in an over-the-top performance – screaming, frothing mad and expected. Ma-ma is subtle. She knows she can get more out of people by force of reputation than screaming and cracking heads…but she also makes sure that people know that cracking heads isn’t necessarily off the table. In a movie that’s over the top, her subtly makes all the difference.
Speaking of over the top – let’s talk slo-mo. I love this. While the whole movie is drenched in blood from when everyone walks into Peachtree to when Anderson walks out of the Hall of Justice, this movie is a non-stop tour of phantasmagoric violence. That is until the slo-mo is used. While the trippy, HD neon effects are used sparingly, they are used to enhance the film. The scene that stands out is the second time it’s used in the drug den. We’re treated to a paradoxical and surreal experience. Blood flies out of wounds like glittering jewels. Flesh ripples from bullet impacts like stone cast into a calm morning pond. We should be horrified of what we see. One guy gets a bullet in the cheek, and it’s an impressionist painting crafted with smart-bullets.
This is not your usual action flick. This is art. This is cinema.
This is also not going to get a sequel. This is the one thing I hate about the Studio system. As much as I understand that the big tent-pole movies like anything that Marvel puts out (this is not a slam against the MCU. More on that when I review all the current movies in a marathon session) funds movies like Dredd. Even as I say that, the point of a movie is to make the studio money. Dredd did good, considering it had to fight uphill – thanks, Sly – to get what it got. Box office numbers didn’t justify a sequel, but hopefully Netflix will continue to find the gems in the dust-bin.
So – run out and get Dredd. It’s a pretty little action film.