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Dredd (3D) Movie Review - -

Dredd (3D)
  Reviewed by Damien Straker on October 7th 2012
presents a film directed by Pete Travis
Screenplay by Alex Garland
Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Wood Harris and Lena Headey
Running Time: 95 minutes
Rating: MA15+
Released: October 25th 2012



In the future, a violent city known as 'Mega-City One' is in disarray due to the number of criminals and lowlifes that rule its streets. Combating their influence are the 'Judges', futuristic police who control crime faster by acting as the judge, jury and executioner at the scene of an incident. The best of these judges is Judge Dredd (Karl Urban), a super cop who never removes his helmet and isn't afraid to pull the trigger. Dredd is paired up with a rookie named Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who wasn't able to pass her first test but is being considered as a Judge because she is actually a mutant with psychic powers. She can be used to anticipate what baddies are going to do or to steal important information from their minds. Together, Dredd and Anderson investigate a homicide case where some bodies have been thrown down from a tower block called Peach Trees. One of the first criminals the Judges pick up is Kay (Wood Harris) and they try escort him out of the building for interrogation. However, this is overseen by the crime boss Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), who opts to have the building locked down, trapping the Judges and Kay inside because she doesn't want her narcotics operation and her SLO-MO drugs uncovered. By using a variety of different weapons and gadgets, Dredd and Anderson work through the building to take down Ma-Ma and her heavily armed goons.

Dredd (3D) lacks the sophistication to problematise the synonymous material of its comic book source, opting to be loud, ugly and super violent, without a definitive reason for its existence. It's a film that looks to extend upon Hollywood's plethora of comic book adaptations, the highly bankable but increasingly laboured subgenre, which presses the politically conservative view that one person can save the world. The very best comic book films though have also been forged with a moral compass, addressing ideas of justice and vigilantism (The Dark Knight, 2008), or appropriated to capture the euphoric personality and energy levels of various zany heroes (Iron Man, the Spider-Man films). Dredd, directed by Pete Travis, is the second attempt to adapt the character Judge Dredd from the 2000 AD comic book, and it's not only well short of the aforementioned movies but also the Sylvester Stallone misfire. The 1995 movie is not particularly impressive, and apparently, not entirely true to the comics either. But critically, it was willing to challenge the meaning of justice. Dredd was deeply inscribed in the law, until he was convicted of something he knew he didn't do. Does that mean the law can be wrong one percent of the time? Forwarding seventeen years later, and the same questions of authoritarianism and fascism are diluted by Dredd's reliance on special effects and shootouts. After a brief opening, the remainder of the film largely takes place in one setting for the entire movie. It's a very different look and feel to the original movie, highly atmospheric and gory, but not appropriate for younger children. The world, including this block, is defined by dark, gritty urban slums, where the effects of violence and drugs are publicly displayed. The corniness and cheese of the Stallone film is replaced by moroseness and nihilism so Dredd can posture as being mature or 'adult,' when really it isn't.

The film's narrative is dully reduced to a series of gunfights, which means that there is no time spent on critiquing Dredd's methods of authority. He's a faceless, witless killing machine that spouts lines like "She's guilty and we're Judges," and "Its judgement time". This is apparently what the character is like in the comics, as insipid as I found it, but the film doesn't make enough of a point of it. The comic's social criticism is deeply weakened by Travis's insistence on celebrating the violence so that the film becomes the very issue it's supposed to be addressing: it's a fascist movie, solely interested in seeing its tattooed, scar-riddled baddies mowed down, one level after another. Anderson is supposed to represent an alternate, pragmatic form of policing, which sees Dredd taser two young kids pointing guns instead of killing them, and her letting a computer whiz go after reading his mind to steal a code. But miniscule events like this have the impossible task of competing with huge set pieces that simply romanticise Dredd's brutality. The film's narcotics thread for example, exists only to justify the inclusion of gratuitous amounts of slow-motion effects. We have to endure close-ups of bullets breaking through the skin of a man's cheek or a baddie being thrown out of a window by Dredd, as they glide to their death. Is there any point other than to pander to the video game fans that might actually be too young to watch this anyway? As a character, Dredd has been compared to Dirty Harry Callahan. The difference is this though: the big guy fought against an unfair justice system that let guilty criminals walk free and his films didn't linger or glorify how he punished thugs. The Dredd in this version might say he is the law, but in the words of Dirty Harry himself: "The law's crazy".


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