‘I am the law’
Films exist that if you watch with the correct level of expectation you will walk out of with the maximum level of enjoyment. Dredd is one of those movies.
This is not to say that Dredd is a bad film. It’s just not a film that at the end of the year will be thrown up in regard such that it’ll even be critics honourable mentions. Dredd, regardless of my oddly attempted put downs, is a great fun film. The movie almost sets it’s hero up to be the ultimate version of a Robocop character. He feels nothing other than the law and his desire to enact it as he maneuvers through this post apocalyptic city that you feel is waiting for that last domino to fall to extinguish human civilization as we know it.
On this particular day Dredd (Karl Urban) is forced to take Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) out on a field assessment. She’s barely made the grade as a judge and is being given special compensation as she’s a powerful psychic, which comes in handy throughout the day. As the day begins Dredd and Anderson head up to an apartment block (two hundred stories tall) to investigate a triple homicide and it turns into a head to head as the judges discover that a single gangster, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), controls the entire building and locks them in forcing them to attack level by level.
While comparisons to the amazing action film The Raid: Redemption is easy it’s also futile as this film doesn’t even try to be that level of ‘balls to the wall’ action. Instead we’re treated to scene after scene of grimacing chin shots of Urban and Thirlby using their plethora of grenade and bullet combinations to clear rooms. We go step by step as the film tries, and mostly succeeds, to make each shootout between generic foot soldier(s) and judges different and exciting.
The violence in this film is graphic. We’re treated to multiple scenes of slow motion bad guys getting their faces shot off (literally in some cases). With the use of the drug that the Ma-Ma gang is producing, called ‘SloMo’, which “allows the brain to think that time is passing at 1% it’s normal time” we are given gorgeously lit slow motion sequences – like watching Ma-Ma fascinated by the waves made when she lifts her arm out of the bathtub really quickly or seeing a group of criminals being chased by Dredd on the highway – and then they’re punctuated by Dredd (and other gun wielding individuals) shooting people in the face. It serves as a highlight in a relatively drab looking film. With a lot of darkened hallways the film lacks a lot of varying sets to create a world that doesn’t look a bit stale by the time we reach the final scenes.
The film jumps in and out of the slow motion scenes in ways that doesn’t frustrate the audience but rather makes it much more enjoyable. While the film doesn’t do much with visuals when it gets a moment – like the slow motion, or when Dredd has to face a few judges himself – it enjoys the dark and light contrasts that the effects of being in a barricaded building that’s shut off from the outside world.