a critiQal film review Dredd (2012)

Plot: In the future, America is an irradiated wasteland. On the East Coast lies a vast, violent metropolis where criminals rule the streets. The only security lies with the "Judges" - urban cops with the combined power of judge, jury and executioner. Known and feared throughout the city, Dredd (Karl Urban) is the ultimate Judge, challenged with ridding the city of its latest scourge – a dangerous drug epidemic that has users of “Slo-Mo” experiencing reality at a fraction of its normal speed.

492 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 27s)

Just a few weeks ago, I was looking to do the combo: review the original and then the reboot. Unfortunately, at the time I couldn’t find Dredd anywhere (that I could afford), so I had to settle with reviewing just Judge Dredd (1995).

Now, however, I was able to watch the reboot. Since the original is still fresh in my mind, I couldn’t wait to check out Dredd. Would the reboot let me down too? Or was this one time where the reboot would be better than the original?

Karl Urban takes over Sly Stallone’s spot as the title character in Dredd. As the film opens, it seems he’s trying to model himself after Sly too, as the few words he does say aren’t much more than grunts. As the movie progresses, however, Karl is able to give the role his own input. Despite never taking off his helmet, he delivers a more personable performance than Sly did in the original.

With Urban improving on Sly’s performance, Dredd is already one up on the original. But they aren’t content to stop there. They add in a rookie Judge who happens to be psychic! Whoa, as Keanu Reeves might say. While Olivia Thirlby isn’t super exciting as an actress, the film lets her put her best foot forward (well, as much as any action film can do). Her confrontations with gangster Kay (played by Wood Harris) show she can really stand on her own, and her psychic mind infiltration is a surreal fun fest.

Turning the original on it’s ear, the psychic rookie isn’t the only difference in Dredd. They went all out and threw in a female villain too! With Lena Headey taking on the role, she manages to portray a drug-addled menace to our heroes, making their race for survival that much more exciting.

While Judge Dredd (1995) managed to wander all over town, this reboot does another smart thing, and focuses all the action in a “locked room” scenario. Since the “locked room” in this case is a 200-story apartment building, it still gives them lots of room to roam. At the same time, it gives the film an edge, since our heroes never know what may be around each and every corner. With apartment dwellers and henchmen alike giving the Judges something to worry about, the tension keeps up throughout the entire film.

With Karl Urban surpassing Sly in the title role, a psychic rookie sidekick, a female villain and a plot that keeps the heroes trapped inside a building, Dredd is definitely a reboot that far surpasses the original. It takes the original, tosses in a bit of Die Hard (1988), and mixes it with lots of stylized violence, blends it, and gives the viewers the action movie Judge Dredd (1995) wanted to be – but wasn’t.

Even if you were disappointed by the original (and honestly, who wasn’t?), you owe it to yourself to check out this reboot. You’ll enjoy it.

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