Despite a huge swell of support on it’s home release, and several rumours over the years, Dredd never got the sequel it deserved. Maybe it didn’t stack up business wise, but fuck the industry for this film not getting a sequel, as this film is pitch perfect. Like it’s main character it’s uncomplicated and stubborn in it’s approach. It also has the best chin acting I’ve ever seen.
Urban’s egoless performance of Dredd is unyielding and stoic, all small shrugs and snarled lips. Stallone’s take yelled “I AM THE LAW”. Here it’s an aggressive whisper; less a threat, more a promise. We know next to nothing about him, though you can infer from other characters that he’s something else. Even Dredd’s fellow Judges view him differently, and the film rightly does nothing to demystify him. Dredd is immune to changes in motivation or character, so the role of ‘window’ to this world goes to his rookie partner Andersen. She’s a great foil, providing an emotional balance to her legendary assessor. Though I have sympathy for her as Dredd reels off various means of failing the assessment, could she have a better teacher?
What’s terrifying is the normality of this all to our protagonist, and how little bother he shows when confronted by it all. This is just one day, in one building, in one sector. Rival gangs, corrupt Judges, and that’s not even thinking about the world beyond the walled city. Is this normal? Or does Dredd’s controlled rage just allow him to shrug it off? Again I’m reminded how much of a shame it is that we’ll never see more of this world.
Ma-Ma is not the law… I am the law
Lena Headey’s Ma-Ma appears to be looking for a way out. She isn’t fussed about… well anything really, and only seems marginally annoyed as Dredd and Andersen make their way to her. She’s a solid villain and much like the the film overall; uncomplicated.
There is almost a beauty to the violence, with the slo-mo drug slowing perception to 1% of normal time. With some clever colour and angle choices, it makes a bullet passing through a face almost something to savour! This film may have had a basic premise, but it was far from basic in it’s style and presentation. Just watching the Lawmaster tear up the freeway gives me goosebumps. Why this film ever chased 3D is beyond me though. It limited the cinemas that would show it, sometimes looks weird in 2D, and crippled the film’s future.
It’s clear everyone involved in this film knew what they wanted, and they nailed it. Dredd is an uncompromising, violent, and hyper-realistic story that introduces a definitive take on the character.