DVD Review - Dredd
At the beginning, Dredd, played by Karl Urban (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Star Trek), gets a new partner. He works with and has to evaluate Judge Anderson, played by Olivia Thirlby (Juno and The Darkest Hour). What sets her apart is that she's a mutant. She doesn't have a third eye or anything. She instead has psychic powers. She's telepathic. When Dredd and Anderson go on patrol, she has to choose where they go. Anderson picks a skyscraper called Peach Trees where three murders have just occurred in broad daylight.
When they arrive Dredd and Anderson investigate and learn that the murders were at the hands of a drug gang that has taken over the Peach Trees. The Peach Trees is a 200-level skyscraper that is a city unto itself. It's mostly residential apartments, but it contains its own mini-hospital, its own movie theater and etc., but it's become rundown physically and economically. People within have become poor and depressed. As a result, many have turned to and become dependent on drugs.
Three, drug gangs rose to power within Peach Trees. One of which is a group called Ma-Ma's gang. Ma-Ma is a brutal, damaged and vicious woman, played by Lena Headey (300 and Game of Thrones). Ma-Ma's gang managed to eliminate the other gangs and stand as the sole, controlling force. She orders the deaths of the three men, but she has such power and influence, and crime is so rampant in Mega-City One, that she's not worried about the Judges.
She doesn't anticipate Anderson and her psychic powers. Dredd would have taken in a few, low-level drug dealers and left, but Anderson's telepathy allows her to solve the murders and also finger one of Ma-Ma's top-level lieutenants, a man named Kay, played by Wood Harris (Remember the Titans and The Wire).
Dredd wants to take Kay in and use him to take down Ma-Ma's gang. Ma-Ma gets wind of this and decides to trap Dredd and Anderson inside Peach Trees. The trick is that Peach Trees is computer-controlled in almost every way. One way in particular is that the entire building can be totally locked down, surrounded by thick walls that can't be penetrated easily. Once that happens, Ma-Ma outright calls for the residents to kill Dredd and Anderson, and the two Judges have to fight their way out or simply fight to stay alive.
What the screenplay by Alex Garland retains is the idea that there are no trials, no juries. The Judges are not only the judges but they're also the cops, dispensing the swiftest of swift justice. If a Judge witnesses a crime, he doesn't have to wait for due process. He can convict right there on the spot and if the Judge sees fit to kill the convicted right there on the street, he'll do so, often without question.
Anderson's role throughout the movie is playing the sidekick who does question this power to convict criminals instantly and then execute those criminals even more instantly. In fact, she hesitates on several occasions from immediately pulling the trigger on people. With her psychic power, she's the gateway for Dredd getting to know people beyond their rap sheets or their circumstances, so that he perhaps learns to see things as not being only black or white.
A lot of people have compared this film to The Raid: Redemption because the premise is very similar, if not the same. The action in Dredd was meant for its 3D theatrical presentation. Director Pete Travis just enjoys throwing glass, blood and bits of human flesh into the camera lens, most if not all of it being computer-generated and in super slow-motion. Travis also delights in throwing tons of bullets at, through and across the screen.
The most egregious offense and lamest thing at the same time is a shootout that involves a child. Travis clearly has the child in the midst of the shootout to put the audience on further edge. The shootout results in the deaths of everyone around him. Yet, the child is the lone survivor. Travis clearly manipulates by dangling a random child. Either have the courage to kill the child or don't have him in the scene at all. The escalation is okay, but it becomes obvious that the final confrontation between Dredd and Ma-Ma is going to be anticlimatic.
Three Stars out of Five.
Rated R for strong bloody violence, language, drug use and some sexual content.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.