“Dredd” is a commercial flop. The Internet maintains a vocal presence of hardcore fans who complain about studios not taking comic properties seriously, and not releasing hard R-rated films. Those fans do not actually support movies like that, and that’s why studios don’t make them. “Dredd” is more than a movie, it’s a cautionary tale, a reminder for the most part that you’re better off making “X-Men The Last Stand” (made $459 million against a $210 million budget) than “Dredd” ($20.1 million against a $50 million budget).
It is for this reason, that I generally don’t think there should be R-rated superhero films. This may seem like an odd beginning for a review, but that’s because there’s not much to review about “Dredd.” Roger Ebert set a standard for movie reviews that I respect: to evaluate them by asking if they accomplish what they set out to do. “Dredd” does. It is a near flawless piece of work.
“Dredd” accomplishes this by not being too ambitious. The movie is just a slice of Judge Dredd’s day, and one gets the impression that it is not a particularly bad one either. Stuck with training underachieving rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) accidentally finds the main distribution point of the drug ‘slo-mo’, which is starting to engulf Mega City One. Stuck inside of a massive apartment complex, he must fight his way through every level to get to criminal boss Ma Ma (Lena Headley).
Many have remarked on the film’s similarity to the Indonesian film “The Raid: Redemption”, but the setup is similar to John Woo’s “Hardboiled”, or dozens of films where two people with guns have to shoot their way into or out of a building. “Dredd” is not concerned with doing anything new, it is concerned with execution and it excels at what it does. Urban channels Clint Eastwood (the original inspiration for Judge Dredd) and then creates a character that I didn’t think he was capable of executing, Thirlby shows a completely different side of herself, and the film engages in the non-stop bloody action that audiences thought the “Expendables” franchise would offer.
“Dredd” is the second most faithful comic book adaptation ever (“Watchman” is the first, but it wasn’t much of a film) and one of the most successful ever filmed. It currently has a 7.8 rating on imdb based on the opinions of roughly 13,000 users, and an 84% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on audience reaction. Maybe it will become a cult classic, but it deserves better than that.
Enjoy Brett Ratner’s “Justice League.”