I am torn over the movie Dredd. It’s an extremely violent movie, blatant and visceral. It’s all glossed over with ingenious lighting and high speed Phantom camera slo-mo which elevates the most horriffic of gunshot wounds and carnage into a giant Pollack canvas of dripping blood, sweat and pain.
Slo-MO is a mind-bending drug that practically brings the world to a stop, rendering the world into 1000’s of a second or some absurd number. The druggie gazes on in disbelief as they peer between the molecules of time, desperate to add meaning to their worthless lives, trapped in the Mega-City.
Karl Urban as Dredd manages to bring a complexity to the character with tone and inference. Dredd flexes his mental state and demeanor through a helmut covering all but his monolithic mouth and chin. I am not certain if he can even see through the mirrored lenses.
In a well-framed moment Dredd mouths the meaning of his life and what it’s become. It’s his sweaty humanity that makes Dredd real and Karl convinces me.
At it’s best, Dredd brings a sense of its characters to the forefront. The Judges lead the way into terrible violent situations in the futuristic Mega City. They’re overwhelmed by a deluge of drugged or just stupid criminals. The populous who all live in the same giant apartment structures called City Blocks have been forced into either being criminals or slaughtered as innocents.
One City Block call Peach Tree is dominated by Ma-Ma ( Lena Headey ) with drug lord aspirations of selling Slo-Mo to everyone in Mega City. Ma-Ma is ruthless with an inner quality of apathy and martyrdom that renders Dredd in a heroic light despite his gruff adherence to the Law!
Ma-Ma skins a few of her lazy workers then throws them over the edge of a 200 story skyscraper City Block, only after forcing them to inhale the Slo-Mo drug so their fall to a splattered death lasts near forever.
The twisted corpses do attract some attention within Peach Tree. Dredd and his rookie, cute, blonde girl wanna-be a Judge Anderson ( Olivia Thirlby ) ‘but I’m a psychic’ get several police calls and she wisely chooses the most dangerous fire-fight for her evaluation.
Olivia portrays Judge Anderson showing strength but still retains qualities of femininity, vulnerability and desirability without rendering it implausible that she would ever be considered for the ruthless life-threatening duties of a Judge. She provides a good balance to Dredd’s, upside down, anchored grimace from under his helmet.
At its worst, Dredd is just a ridiculous corner-turning video game like Doom. Corridors lead to level bosses that you have to kill until you manage to get to the upper levels and the biggest boss.
Turning on the third act twist by bringing in corrupt Judges, hired by Ma-Ma, to kill Dredd and Anderson for a million credits helps inject new vigor. Only a million? A Judge can be turned by what must be worth about 50K due to inflation.
The glossy camera work with infusions of believable characters manages to save Dredd from being a simple point and shoot action eyeball poker.
So while I was watching this, I did enjoy it and was surprised that I was enjoying it. Though I did have nightmares that night and the day after thought to myself:
How many people have I seen killed in real life and how many have I seen murdered by endless streams of bullets and now the bullets have names?
I have never even seen an actual bullet in my life and I wonder what kind of person I would be if I didn’t have all the imagery of death, blood and slaughter from movies in my head.
Should I like this movie?