Director: Pete Travis
Writer: Alex Garland
Cast: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Wood Harris, Lena Headley
The Movie: Judge Dredd may not be a character that’s embedded in the minds of comic fans like Batman and Superman, but he has enjoyed a considerable cult following in the 35 years since his first adventure was published in the anthology magazine 2000 AD. Before Dredd was released, the only celluloid depiction of the merciless lawman came in the form of a well-intentioned but incredibly silly adaptation starring Sylvester Stallone, who certainly looked the part but came across as too cartoony.
Now that we’re living in the era of the reboot, director Pete Travis has given us Dredd, a simple yet faithful iteration of the character who shoots first, asks questions later, and never, ever takes his helmet off. While Dredd isn’t a perfect film, it’s a refreshing sci-fi actioner that doesn’t ask too much of its audience than to sit back and enjoy the fireworks. The world of Dredd isn’t too complex and the plot is pretty straightforward; it’s a light mix between Training Day and the The Raid, but with more exploding heads.
Performance-wise, Karl Urban succeeds in a lot of areas where Stallone tried and failed. Urban embodies the stone-faced, gun-toting satire of law enforcement in a very meaningful way without coming across as ham-fisted, which seemed to be the case in the 1995 flick. Simply put, Urban makes you buy Dredd as the embodiment of unwavering vigilance. You don’t want to cross him, unless you want a bullet in the face—depending on what kind of bullet he wants to dispense from his Lawgiver that is.
The remainder of the cast do very well in the parts they’ve been given. Olivia Thirlby brought the right amount of vulnerability and toughness that her rookie character required and Lena Headley as the villainous Ma Ma wasn’t earth-shattering, but a fun performance nonetheless.
In short, Dredd delivers as a gritty action flick and manages to do justice to its source material, with pretty good performances all around.
Picture and Sound: The Blu-Ray edition of Dredd offers the film in its intended 3D presentation as well as regular Blu-Ray Hi-Def. If you own a 3D player, you’re going to want to see this film in 3D because the movie is chalk-full of sequences that are given real depth and shine. The film is also pretty immersive with some gnarly sound effects and a pulsing electronic soundtrack, so the speakers are given a good workout with this mix.
The Extras: The Blu-Ray includes a few featurettes, my favorite among them being the Judge Dredd retrospective, which examines the character’s comic book roots and cultural impact for the past 35 years. It’s a short piece, but you get to see some well-chosen panels from some of the comics and listen to Dredd’s creators as well as some of the other writers who have taken a crack at the character over the years.
The other featurettes are devoted to the props (Dredd’s Gear), visual effects (Day of Chaos), and production (The 3rd Dimension) of the film, so if you’re invested in how a movie comes together, these should sate your appetite. However, they’re pretty standard and nothing to write home about.
Verdict: Dredd is a great way to kill an hour and a half; you can stay for the special features (which are adequate), but they aren’t essential to your enjoyment of the disc. It’s all about the great picture and sound when it comes to a movie about blood and bullets.