Starting a review with a rant about budget should tell you a little about how I felt whilst watching Dredd, but that is how I’m going to play this one.
Any defense of this film using the argument of budgetary constraints is not really a defense because, in recent years, spectacular science fiction films have been made for way less than the IMDB-stated $50 million budget of Dredd. I can think of Monsters ($800 thousand), Moon ($5 million), Chronicle ($12 million) and District 9 ($30 million). So it is clearly possible to make a special effects-laden film for less than the price of your average superhero movie.
It is ridiculous that this movie plays so turgid, so boring, and so unimaginative for all of its less-than-100-minutes running time. I know the character of Judge Dredd is illustrated with a frown in the comic books but does that mean that Karl Urban had to wear his smile upside-down the whole time he is on screen? All the action, all the lines, and even the special effects are cannibalized from better movies. It feels like everybody is moving at half speed, talking slowly, and behaving like stop-motion robots. Even the man’s motorcycle behaves like one of Mumbai’s ageing taxicabs–no matter how much you gun it, the darn thing will not pick up speed.
And come on filmmakers, “Slo-Mo”? Seriously?
The drug that has taken over the streets, and giant housing blocks, of Mega-City One is something you ingest through an asthma inhaler and it slows everything down – making it seem like time is passing at 1% of real time.
First of all, what that really means is that the user’s brain is running at a hundred times its normal processing speed, thereby making it possible to see and experience way more than the average individual does in daily life.
Second, the way the effect of this drug is interpreted in the movie, it is just a super slow motion effect that filmmakers with (relatively) inexpensive DLSR cameras are employing to make fun little videos all over Youtube and Vimeo. Putting a glittery filter on top of the slow motion doesn’t make it big screen-worthy.
And finally, just because Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) has her Slo-Mo manufacturing operation headquartered in Peach Trees she decrees that the two Judges should be killed? What happens when more Judges come a-knocking?
I wonder if screenwriter Alex Garland and director Pete Travis thought this stuff through. Even if they did, it doesn’t look like they came up with a good enough answer.
The Indonesian film The Raid: Redemption is almost exactly the same as Dredd in terms of narrative structure. Except that it operates from a place of better motivation for the lead character, and it is orders of magnitude better executed.
Final Analysis: All I can say is: I’m never getting those 90-something minutes of my life back. There really isn’t anything that works in this movie. And I think it finally manages to justify the excesses of the Stallone-starring version that came before it.
My Advice: If you really want to watch a cop-in-a-building movie rent The Raid: Redemption, or Die Hard. What the heck, do a double feature.