All that I really knew about the Judge Dredd character was that he was originally the focus of a satirical and nihilistic British comic book series and then, in 1995, was turned into an abysmal, piece of shit Stallone ‘vehicle’ that apparently completely raped the tone and character of Judge Dredd. After that, the possibility of additional entries into the potential franchise seemed ‘dead in the water’. Fast forward 17 years (wow…that long?!) and someone out there decided to give the ‘property’ another day in cinematic court. Did they succeed? Yes and no. Yes, in that they crafted a kick-ass, no holds barred action flick that gleefully wore a sick sense of humor on its sleeve. Along with a shower of sprayed blood. Lots of it. They made a smart play with the casting of Karl Urban (Star Trek) in the title role and were brave and confident enough in his delivery to not have him remove the iconic, over-sized helmet, as per the comics. It also says a lot about Urbans apparent lack of ego, in that he’s willing to play an entire movie with only his body and grimace to convey Dredd. I like that. If I recall correctly, 1995s ‘Judge Dredd’ had some convoluted story about Dredd being framed, and corruption in the Hall of Justice, or some such shit. Here, they stripped the story right down and just had fun with it. In the undetermined future, Mega City One is a sprawling cesspool of crime and poverty, all tentatively held together by a near-fascist police force comprised of cops called Judges. These Judges are given the on-the-street power of Judge, Jury and, if warranted, Executioner. Dredd is a revered veteran of the force, assigned to take on a conveniently psychic rookie, named Anderson, out on her first shift for evaluation. In the course of their day, they are called on to respond to 3 messy homicides (splat!) at a huge, poverty and crime-laden tenement called Peach Trees. In trying to locate the murderer, Dredd and Anderson apprehend one of the perps, a henchman in the employ of the Queen Bee of Crime, MaMa (Lena Headey), and opt to take him into the Hall of Justice for Interrogation. MaMa gets wind of this and realizes that, in order to preserve her iron grip on the local drug trade, she can’t allow this to happen. So she barricades Dredd and Anderson into Peach Trees and sets her army of henchmen after them. From there, it becomes a crazily violent game of cat n mouse through the ramshackle corridors of the building. Bullets, explosives and blood fly everywhere as things ramp up to the final denouement. The violence in this flick is impressive in its ferocity but at no time feels like it should be taken seriously. Some of it is almost laugh-out-loud absurd (lookin at YOU, homeless Asian junkie!) and it just adds to the fun. Now, I did say ‘yes and no’ to how this flick was successful. The ‘no’ part of that came from the studios apparent miscalculation with regards to its marketing. Dredd bombed. Most undeservedly so. I would’ve loved to see what other crazy shenanigans Dredd and Anderson could’ve gotten themselves into in any number of stories from the gutters of Mega City One. But alas, it seems not to be. Which sucks. And speaking of sucking, if there was anything that I’d have to nitpick, it was that some of the 3D effects played out a little cheaply on the small screen. Given that this IS based on an absurd comic book, I suppose it can be seen as forgivable, I just found it distracting at times. Overall, Dredd is a fun comic book adaptation that does deserve a wider audience than it initially got. Maybe if it manages to achieve noticeable cult status in the near-future, we’ll be blessed with another one of these, with Urban back in the role. I would JUDGE that to be very cool. You might too.
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