Okay, I suppose the first thing you want to know is: is it any good? Is it better than the ‘other’ one? Is it worth your money?
The answer to all of these questions is yes.
You can forget all about the Stallone travesty. And then there’s that other thing people keep talking about… The Raid. You can forget all about that too. I have seen the Raid, and while Dredd shares a broad similarity in basic plot, they are totally different beasts.
So, if you are a fan of the comics, there are a few things you will be expecting and I am happy to say that I think you will find them all present and correct here.
Let’s start with the main character. Mega City One. The movie opens with a jaw dropping shot as we glide across the Cursed Earth, over the West Wall and into the city itself. If you are one of the people who thinks that the only thing they got right in the Stallone movie was the city, then be prepared to be amazed, because this is a lot better.
As for Karl Urban. Well, he is Dredd. I cannot fault his performance at all, and the amount of information he manages to convey with only his mouth and chin to act with is very impressive. He, like writer Alex Garland and director Peter Travis, understands the character of Dredd. So much so that, to the delight of this fan at least, he doesn’t have anything approaching an emotional journey or character arc. He’s Dredd and the beginning, middle and end. Well… that’s not strictly true… there is perhaps a hint of glacial speed movement in there… perhaps.
Which brings us to Olivia Thriby, who as Cassandra Anderson, is very much the emotional core of the movie. Thirlby plays her wonderfully, and there is real emotion in her eyes at time, especially in one early-ish scene where Dredd, as the Judge assessing her on her final exam, has her pass sentence on a criminal. It’s a powerful scene and really brings home the brutality of the job these people do. Shout out too, to the depiction of Anderson’s psychic abilities, which are also realised in a very clever fashion.
The other character I found myself having sympathy for was, surprisingly, Lena Heady’s villain – Ma-Ma Madrigal. There’s much subtlety to her performance, and Ma-Ma comes across in the end as as much a victim as everyone else in the city.
As I said above, the thing that gratified me the most was just how everyone involved seems to understand and respect the source material. To give another example. In your standard action movie, any spectacular death is usually greeted with an hilarious one liner. Not so with Dredd. When he’s killing people, he’s a man doing his job, and this resulted in what are possibly my two favourite scenes in the movie.
As I’m am sure you have figured out by now, I liked this a lot. It’s a great action movie, but more importantly, it’s a great Dredd movie and deserves to do well at the box office.
Be warned though, it is bloody, it is sweary, it is very violent. But if you know Dredd, you’ll know that already.