If you were to mention Judge Dredd to a person on the street, the response you will receive would probably relate to the awful Sylvester Stallone movie from the 90’s. A film that spent more time focusing on Stallone spewing out groan-worthy one-liners and (even worse) allowing Rob Schneider screen-time rather than progressing the story. It was a case study on how to take a beloved comic property, throw away everything that made it appealing to the fans, and rewrite it in a way to make it almost universally reviled. As you might be able to tell, I wasn’t a fan of the 1995 movie.
For anyone who is not familiar with the back-story, Judge Dredd is a British comic, set in a future where most of the world has become a nuclear wasteland, with the surviving remnants of humanity living in cities consisting of huge apartment blocks, built on the remains of the old world. Crime runs rampant in these cities, over-run by gangs, and the main law-enforcers are the Judges, invested with the power of judge, jury and executioner, often doling out the punishment on the spot once they have apprehended their prey. Judge Dredd is the best and most feared of these peace-keepers.
Now, thankfully, movie-goers have been given a chance to wipe the memory of the Stallone film, with a new reboot of the series with Karl Urban in the titular role. From the get go, Mega City (the main set piece of the movie) has a very dystopian feel. The heat and dust giving an oppressive feeling of burden that’s seems to settle over the whole environment. Part of this comes from the movie being shot in South Africa, naturally giving a heat haze to the film, and partly due to the griminess and brown colour palette of the cinematography.
Due to the low budget, a lot of the effects are practical, and the main focus of the story is set within one apartment block. Trapped within this setting, Dredd’s main goal is to stop a drug-trafficking ring located within the building. Unfortunately this means getting from the bottom floor to the top, having to deal various gang-members, determined to put an end to Dredd’s mission by any means necessary.
Keeping the story simple and focused in primarily one set works well for the film. There’s nothing in the movie that you haven’t seen before but at a brisk 90 minutes, it feels like one long action piece, which is not necessarily a bad thing. One of the most noteworthy stylistic choices made in the movie is the spectacular slow motion used during the fight scenes. The “Slo-Mo Sequences” involve capturing the scenes at a crazy 4,000 frames per second (fps) then slowing them down, transforming violence and pretty much any other movement into something majestic and beautiful.
As Dredd, Karl Urban is a gruff, grizzled machine. Instead of resorting to one-liners, Dredd enforces the law with minimal dialog, letting his actions do the talking. It’s a great portrayal of the character and I can only hope that we get to see future instalments of Dredd in the future.
I give the movie 7.5/10