Judgement is Served
reviewed by www.HotButterReviews.com
★ ★ ★ ★ out of 5 buckets | Matinee and DVD
Rated: R Language, some sexual content, strong bloody violence and drug use
Release Date: September 21, 2012
Runtime: 1 hour 36 minutes
Director: Pete Travis
Writers: Alex Garland, based on characters created by Carlos Ezquerra and John Wagner
Cast: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, Warrick Grier, Wood Harris, Domhnall Gleeson, Langley Kirkwood, Edwin Perry, Karl Thaning, Michele Levin
SYNOPSIS: In an future where the planet is an irradiated wasteland, the remaining population lives in Mega Cities policed by men and women who act as judge, jury, and executioner.
REVIEW: Pete Travis, director of Endgame and Vantage Point, takes the law into his own hands to direct his own version of the American law enforcement officer from the British science fiction anthology magazine 2000 AD. Based on the creation of writer John Wagner and artisit Carlos Ezquerra in 1977, and written by Alex Garland (28 Weeks Later,Sunshine), Travis brings his own sense of judgement to the character of ultra-violent lawman Judge Joseph Dredd.
In an irradiated wasteland that was once the United States of America, the US population of 800 million people live in a walled in Mega City One that is a walled-in concrete and steel city landscape stretching from Boston to Washington, D.C.. The crime rate is high and the existence is more of survival than prosperity. In order to quell the raging disobedience of the populace, the Hall of Justice was formed by the Justice Department with law enforcement officers named Judges. These Judges act as judge, jury, and executioners with the authority to arrest, sentence, and execute criminals on the spot, if warranted. Joseph Dredd (Karl Urban, Red) is one such judge. After taking down a trio of drugged and homicidal criminals, Dredd is ordered by the Chief Judge (Rakie Ayola,Sahara) to take out a 'special' rookie Anderson (Olivia Thirlby, The Darkest Hour) on shift for pass/fail assessment. When a triple homicide is called into Control, Dredd and Anderson go to the Peach Tree section high-rise to investigate. When the bodies lead to a drug-dealing den for the new potent Slo-Mo and to murder suspect Kay (Wood Harris,Just Another Day), prostitute turned druglord Ma Ma (Lena Headey, Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles) locks down the Peach Trees structure to flush out and kill the Judges.
Dredd 3D marks a turning point for the popular Judge. In 1995, Sylvester Stallone took on Judge Dredd in a loose adaptation of a storyline involving his brother/clone Judge Rico. Throughout, Stallone's Dredd takes off the helmet on many occasions and finds himself in a relationship to a female Judge, both decisions contrary to the spirit of the character and the comic series. Although Stallone's jawline would have worked well under the helmet,Judge Dredd is considered a domestic theatrical flop. Now, Pete Travis goes back to the basics and keeps with the laws of the series. Karl Urban's Dredd never removes his helmet. In fact, none of the Judges remove their helmets in the story, except rookie Anderson (who has a good reason to skip the headgear). Also true to the graphic series, Dredd is a no-nonsense dispenser of justice with his gun as a the final word in criminal judgement.
Continually compared to The Raid: Redemption, Dredd 3D encompasses some of the same plot points, and I cannot in good conscience not discuss the differences and similarities between the two films. The Raid: Redemption and Dredd 3D both have a violent druglord holed up at the top of a massive highrise with innocent bystanders cowering away from the hail of bullets and armed thugs tasked with eliminating the external threat of the law. The violent action is severe in both films, but where Iko Uwais's Rama relies on brutal hand-to-hand martial arts skills when his guns are not enough, Urban's Dredd is a brawler with a cool DNA-activated weapon system with a variety of special rounds ranging from incendiaries to armor piercing shells. The Raid: Redemption has an entire SWAT team assaulting a modern day high-rise. Dredd 3D has only a lone veteran Judge with a first-day rookie tagging along for her training assessment. Both films are incredible finished feats of violent cinema, one for the modern day and one for the wastelands of the future.
True to its comics roots, Dredd 3D embodies the authoritarian, ultra-violent law-enforcement of the not so distant future. Dredd is all business, from his dispensement of judgement to his assessment of his Judge trainee Anderson. His responses and queries are quick and decisive, based on a long career in law enforcement filled with violence and death. When Urban's Dredd utters the famous line, "I am the Law," you realize that this version is what the film should have been from the jump. There is nothing cute or comical about Travis' version, with no sidekick comic relief needed to bolster the story. Utterly violent, bloody, and grim, Judge Dredd is now the gritty broiling hero (not anti-hero, because he is the law!) that everyone in the UK knew him to be from the comics put into print since 1977.
Karl Urban is the perfect Dredd, taking his imposing size, gravelly simmering voice and square shadowed jawline. Lena Headey, the scarred prostitute turned turf destroying drug kingpin Ma Ma, trades in her tough woman persona from The Sarah Conner Chroniclesfor a ruthless peddler of Slo-Mo and death. Olivia Thirlby, as a first-day Judge, goes from inexperienced novice to semi-hardened executioner all in the span of a single day's tour of duty. The rest of the cast is vast and unnamed, most taking a bullet from the barrel of someone's smoking barrel.
Dredd 3D is an ultra-violent actioner not for the timid or faint of heart. With a solid story, plenty of flying bullets, and bodies hitting the floor, this gritty and dark tale keeps with the source material. I believe Pete Travis and crew have done the character justice, but I will let you be the judge, jury, and executioner.