REVIEW Just watched the 2012 reboot of Judge Dredd, simply called "Dredd". And guess what - it's yet another ultraviolent blood fest with very little substance.

Action / 95 min
Starring: Karl Urban, Lena Headey, Olivia Thirlby

The movie

With a back story explained by the narrator in about ten seconds, the film starts off. And it's right into the action, without even bothering to build up any sense of purpose behind all the killing. All we know is there's some sort of drug dealing gang occupying a block in some dystrophic, futuristic metro city, referred to as MegaCity One. And our brutal anti-hero Dredd is sent in to clear up, accompanied by a young female recruit with mind reading capabilities. As soon as they get there, gang bangers and regular, everyday citizens alike - everyone - yes EVERYONE, is out to get them.

Gun porn

This may look like someone's poor work in Photoshop, but it's straight out the movie. Notice how the bullet supposedly travels through the guys cheeks, yet somehow doesn't leave a mark on the poor fella.
The ultra-thin story aside, "Dredd" is first and foremost a strong visual experience, indulging in slow motion close-ups of faces exploding, blood splashing over camera lenses, and other fun treats in what is usually referred to as "bullet time". An aesthetic that The Matrix had already brought to table, some 14 years ago. Max Payne then brought the blood into it, but that's a different story. My point is, they're not exactly trying to re-invent the wheel here. It's merely an artistic, but also quite gimmicky, use of modern technology.

Dredd is a character that is hard to sympathise with. Not only because he's completely faceless, he's also extremely 2-dimensional. He shows no emotion, no remorse, he has no history and his sole purpose is in life is to blindly serve "The Law". That's it. In "Dredd", it's instead the female characters that become more likeable. Even the main antagonist; Ma Ma - the leader of the band of drug dealers, played by Lena Headey, even has a bit of a life story that make her wicked ways still appear somewhat understandable.
A badly scuffed up Lena Headey is the main antagonist of Judge Dredd in this adorable little chick-flick.

Rooting for the bad guy

By the end of the movie, I wasn't quite sure who I was supposed to be rooting for, but it probably wasn't  the person the writers had in mind. The ending was supposed to be redeeming and gratifying, evidently. Instead it was just engrossing and perverse.

Comparing it to the original

There's a trend in modern comic book movies to make them more and more grim, dark and moody. Or "serious", as some might say. Dredd is of course no exception, and while Sylvester Stallone's original Judge Dredd from 1995 had some more or less deliberate humour and ridicule to it, this reboot offers nothing remotely funny, apart from Karl Urban's overly grim facial expression, worn throughout the whole movie.

This type of movies falls into a category which doesn't need to take itself too seriously. It's based off a comicbook, and it's supposed to be a fun popcorn flick, right? The original, had Rob Schneider in it for some comic relief, but there's nothing of that nature in this modern reboot. Instead, we get a main villain who's a woman showing a lot of inner torment from a lifetime of physical and sexual abuse. And we're supposed to feel good about ourselves, seeing her suffer some more at the end. I can't stress enough how distasteful I find this.

The low-light footage in Dredd leaves much to be desired (click the image above for a closer look).

Visual presentation

Dredd takes place inside an apartment block, virtually the whole movie throughout. A lot of it is shot in low light, and whatever cameras they used, they clearly aren't up to the task. Obviously a bit of grain is always to be expected for HD material, but here you get a lot of discolouration and lack of detail. Some of the shots look like what you could expect from a regular modern compact camera. While the gimmicky slow motion sequences looks spectacular, the rest of the film isn't nearly as pleasing to watch. And at times, "Dredd" just looks plain out awful.



Regardless of what you think of the movie itself, it at least sounds good. The dialogue comes out clearly (Stallone is not in this movie, after all) and sound effects have a lot of weight behind them. The back speakers will also get their money worth, if you have a proper 5.1 setup. The dynamic range is just about right, to me; meaning you'll be able to hear the dialogue properly without going deaf as soon as the bullets start flying. But rest assure, tt's still wide enough to sound really massive when you want it to, making you feel the thumps and vibrations of the many actions scenes of the film.


Get Dredd (2012) and Judge Dredd (1995) on Blu-ray and DVD


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