An Outposter survives the cursed earth to contribute. The Man Who Saved Movies returns as Why Would You Post That? He wants to talk to you about Dredd, with a Retro Review.
Dredd – A Look Back
Back in 1995 director Danny Cannon and star Sylvester Stallone both took a massive sh*t on an issue of 2000AD and released it into the cinema as (what I jokingly refer to as) a movie called Judge Dredd.
Even though he was one of the most famous stars in the world with an instantly recognizable voice the makers of the film thought:
“No – we still have to see Stallone’s face”.
That was the first of many wrong creative decisions in what became an enduring diarrhea stain on comic book movies.
Luckily in 2012 a bunch of guys who’d actually READ an issue of 2000AD decided to have a stab at it. The result was Dredd. A bold mix of Blade Runner, Escape From New York, Hard Boiled, Die Hard, and a sh*t load of other great influences, taking only the good parts).
You can attribute this to writer, and possibly uncredited Director, Alex Garland. A man who knows his sh*t. Comic book fans around the world rejoiced. Well. At least two that we know of. Because for some dumb ass reason the film flopped.
So. Set in an unspecified time in the future – the world is completely f*cked. At some point there was a third world war and everywhere got KILLED THE SH*T OUT OF.
Dredd – Now
Dotted around America are a couple of so-called Mega-Cities all separated by an irradiated wasteland known as the Cursed Earth. Our story takes place in Mega City One. A festering cesspool of a metropolis home to 800 Million people. All potential criminals. Separated from the rest of the world by big f*ck off walls. And it’s a SH*T HOLE. Google a town in the UK called Slough and you’ll get a general idea.
At some point law and order as we know, it collapsed. The police, the justice system – the lot (again, see Slough). So a new type of law enforcer was created. The Judge (also Jury and Executioner – but “Judge” just sounds more badass on its own).
Now, these Judges patrol the Big Meg on Lawmaster motorcycles and carry Lawgiver guns, which are basically a swiss army pistol of voice-controlled WHOOP ASS, and these motherf*ckers have the authority to blow your goddamned head off on the SPOT if you hurt an innocent. Or return a library book late. Basically, DO NOT F*CK WITH THESE GUYS. They will put you in a WORLD OF HURT.
But guess what – there’s a problem. DRUGS! That’s right, people in the future STILL like to get zonked out of their minds. Living in a bucket of piss like MC1 who could blame them? Not any old drug though. A drug called Slo-Mo which makes time feel like it’s going at 1% its normal speed. This is kind of how I feel when I’m forced to watch Supergirl.
The biggest distributor is Ma-Ma. An evil bitch of a crime-lord who lives in Peach Trees. An extravaganzoid of a tower block situated smack bang right in the middle of the Big Meg. It’s her base of operations. And when she skins three rival gang-members alive and turns them into pavement pizza it attracts the attention of the Judges.
Namely Judge Dredd. Not only does Dredd have to deal with this mess he has to assess rookie Judge Cassandra Anderson – who is a gifted psychic thanks to her radioactively mutated family lineage.
They must go to Peach Trees – investigate the murders and deliver judgment to the perpetrators. Sounds easy right? Wrong! Dredd and Anderson’s day is about to go seriously tit sky. When Ma-Ma gets wind that the Judges are poking in around in the building she has it locked down. Our intrepid enforcers are prisoners. Every criminal in the building, and there are quite a few, are ordered to wipe Dredd and Anderson out.
They have no option but to fight their way to the top and take out Ma-Ma.
But fear not. This isn’t any old Judge. Judge Dredd is the best there is. He’s just as mean as any criminal he’d ever face. His permanent mask makes him a faceless force of justice – with only his voice, like a buzz saw through concrete, giving any hint of emotion. An emotion of repressed rage.
This is a guy who HATES crime and feels NO fear.
And now he’s pissed off. Over the course of roughly 90 minutes, he makes Dirty Harry look like a pussy.
I’ve got to say – it’s a rare treat to see a movie like this get everything so GODDAMNED RIGHT.
There isn’t a massive budget to play around with here – but remarkably the film actually makes this a strength. This version of MC1 isn’t a gleaming futuristic city of industry like it is in the comics. The futuristic elements are pared down quite considerably giving everything a more realistic aesthetic. And being filmed on location in South Africa helps give it a dirty, grimy, and humid feel.
A thrilling opening chase really sells the rest of the movie – as it’s a cleverly disguised bit of exposition. We know what kind of crime we are dealing with, what kind of drug problem the city has AND the kind of man Judge Dredd is. But also what kind of man he NEEDS to be. It’s basically a world built in three minutes. Some franchises struggle with that in three movies.
Lena Headey as Ma-Ma. How do I describe this? Think of every nightmare ex in your history. Combine them all together. Then add a huge crime empire, and a bunch of minions and a very large f*cking gun. Terrifying villain.
Then there’s Olivia Thirlby. Starts out a bit mousey, a bit nervous and at the end, she’s blowing c*nts faces off with the business end of her lawgiver. Great actress, great character.
And then the man himself. Karl Urban. He brings the legendary comic book badass to life with a square jaw and steely resolve, occasionally hinting at a dash of humanity within. He gives us a perfect anti-hero. This ain’t just a case of sticking a mask on any old twat and getting them to learn the lines. This movie could not have been done without Urban in the lead.
There’s the percussive, bass-heavy score by Paul Leonard Morgan. Channeling his inner John Carpenter as violence erupts to his ambient beats. Staying with the John Carpenter reference for a moment – this has got that feeling all over it. That lo-fi, minimalist sci-fi action – but with intelligence and wit to spare.
2000AD fans couldn’t have asked for better. Brutally violent, slyly funny, and with a tight script Dredd is a pretty bloody brilliant sci-fi thriller. Embracing it’s source material and wearing it’s R rating proudly on its sleeve.
I could end this by saying it’s a crying shame that this never got any sequels. But when you think about it that’s probably a blessing in disguise. It’d be sad to see this get woked. Which let’s face it would probably happen.
Watch it. It’s great.
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