reviewed by Tom-Tom
“What a relief.” That was my first reaction to the first 10 minutes of Dredd, a post-apocalyptic crime thriller based on the British Comic 2000AD. I had seen the previous Stallonne film and enjoyed the situational set-up, an all in one law enforcement individual who is the beginning and end of the law. Comic book movies were in the larva stage at that time and the acting was directed to be stylized and cartoonish. Fans of the original comic criticized the absence for most of the film of Dredd’s helmet with which he was apparently never without. Nice try but no dice. There are no such mistakes here. This is a serious, ultra-violent entry into a terrible dog-eat-dog world where the judges, as streamlined as their legal powers maybe, are just barely holding back the tide of Mega City One, one of the only remaining human civilizations among the “irradiated remains of the United States.” Just like the atomic blast which begins the 1988 anime masterpiece “Akira,” there is no explanation, just that it is. The opening scene which is the make or break qualification round for any superhero is impressive but not over the top highway chase of speeding drug users getting high on Slo-Mo, which gets you high by slowing your brain down to 1%. This trippy state is dramatized with shiny and beautiful special effects. Judge Dredd hunts them down professionally without passion and is ruthless in meting out his sentences. He may not smile but he lets loose a wry comment here and there to let us know he’s human.
Soon Dredd is training a cadet played by Olivia Thirlby a mutant psychic (don’t worry, this is all low-key mind reading, nothing over the top) and as part of her supervision directs her to choose a crime in progress to head towards. Damn if she doesn’t choose a doozy. The pleasant-sounding Peach Trees. A Mega Block, a 200 story high-rise run by the crime lord Ma-Ma, a soft-spoken yet viciously violent woman scarred and insane but also shrewd and calculating. She is played by the great Lena Headley with greatly repressed rage. She speaks in almost a whisper allowing three men who had the gaul to sell drugs on her property to issued a terrible death aided by Slo-Mo to make it last. Assisted by the trainee’s sixth sense, the pair head to the 39th Floor and make arrests and damn if they don’t arrest Ma-Ma’s right hand man, played by Wood Harris of “The Wire” fame. There’s an “oh damn” moment as the judges are obstructed from leaving by blast doors sealing them and everyone in. Ma-Ma comes on the loudspeaker and advises all 200 floors of tenants to kill the two intruders. So, it begins The next hour is a non-stop cat and mouse game full of wholesale slaughter from the Ma-Ma clan who don’t give one inch and don’t care who gets caught in between. There are so many great set pieces and the suspense is nearly unbearable at times as the two drag the witness from unyielding bloodbath to unyielding bloodbath. Dredd is an exciting, uncompromisingly, violent thriller that is beautifully done. Aside from the infrequent Slo-Mo trips, there is nothing shiny about this world, only grit, rust, sweat, and blood. Everyone gives their A-game. I feel it is one of the Best Films of 2012 not to mention one of the greatest comic book adaptations ever made.