After the disaster that was 1995's Judge Dredd, I had grave doubts that 2012's Dredd was going to be any good.
Boy, was I wrong. To put it mildly, I really enjoyed this movie.
The simplest way I can put the plot of this movie is basically a badass cop and a rookie fighting their way up through a building controlled by a gang. Does that not sound like the premise of a first/third person shooter?
And the movie is awesome at what it does. It reminds me of films from Walter Hill and John Carpenter in the late 1970's and early 1980's like The Warriors, Assault on Precinct 13 and Escape From New York, and if you know me, that is high praise indeed.
This may sound weird, but I also appreciated the minimalism of
the back story. I've never read the comic, so it isn't like I had Cliff
Notes about the Judge Dredd universe going in, but I think that throwing
the audience into the deep end with just a tiny bit of exposition at
the very beginning worked out well. To me it is a picture perfect
example of the principle of less is more. In terms of the pacing, Dredd is pretty lean. I've seen it four times now
and I can't really think of any scenes that seemed extraneous or felt
like they went on too long. It is a solidly constructed action movie.
Dredd is a very violent and gory movie. There is no sugar coating that, and as someone who tends to take such things with a grain of salt, there were a few moments that even I said looked really nasty, but they do fit with the aesthetic of the movie, so I can't fault the film for going in that direction. The tone is dark and it doesn't try to play things for laughs.
Karl Urban, who I enjoyed in Red and Star Trek, really pulled off the title role with a performance that isn't showy or big, but brooding and even understated. It felt just right to me. Olivia Thirlby won me over as well as the rookie Anderson, and Lena Headey is always good. The rest of the cast is a blend British and South African actors all playing Americans, with most of the accents being very accomplished.
And I can't forget to mention the soundtrack which is dirty and electronic sounding, but it really fit with the movie and I think it is going to hold up remarkably well, and it does again fit sonically with those Walter Hill/Carpenter movies I mentioned earlier.
All in all, for action fans, Dredd comes highly recommended.