Directed by Pete Travis
Expectations: Moderate. Heard good things.
Judge Dredd and Dredd open rather similarly — with overviews of the current state of the world coming to us via narration — but the two films are almost incomparable. One is a loud, bombastic, over-the-top Hollywood B-Movie, and the other is a low-budget, gritty attempt to plausibly bring the character to life. They are both successful at being what they strive to be, but Dredd is clearly the better film overall. It definitely has its issues, but this is an overwhelmingly good movie for action movie fans.
Comparisons between Dredd and The Raid have been discussed since the former was released, but I actually think that likening this film to The Raid does it a disservice. Sure, the plots are almost identical and even some small moments are eerily similar, but there’s one fundamental difference between the two films that should be known going in (besides the fact that Dredd kicks off in classic buddy cop fashion). The Raid is a non-stop action movie, with almost zero down time. Dredd is more of a tense, bloody thriller. It has a lot of action, but they’re closer to bursts of action than full-on action sequences.
The visuals reach their most artistic when the action goes into slow motion. Instead of simple in-camera slow motion, Dredd‘s slo-mo sequences are super, super slow, and the color palette is saturated, radiant and iridescent to give the audience the feel of using hallucinogens. I’ve read that much of the slo-mo work was done with practical FX like squibs and shooting compressed air at people’s flesh to get it to ripple, but because of heightened nature to the visuals most of the shots look digital and fake. But for once that isn’t a bad thing, as these shots are always gorgeous and fascinating. I didn’t care how they did it because it looked fantastic, so to learn that a lot of it was practical only made me like the shots even more. The color saturation extends to the entire film, too, giving many scenes a “comic book panel come to life” feel that totally works.
Dredd is a great modern action film, and I would love to see these guys get a shot at making a sequel. Karl Urban owns the role, but I still think Stallone’s crooked mouth looked better under the helmet. To each their own. But which film is better? Depends on what you want out of your action movie, but my money’s on Dredd. Woulda liked to see some robots in this one, though.
And with that…