Ma-Ma is Not the Law … I Am the Law.
Reviewing Total Recall got me thinking about another recent remake that I thought would suck. Much like Total Recall, the original movie was a dumb, campy action movie starring one of the biggest action stars in history and, like Total Recall, it was a movie that I didn’t like nearly as much as everyone else seemed to. I’m not really that forgiving of camp. It can make a movie watchable, but not really re-watchable. I just want to watch it once to laugh at it. So, when they remake a movie like this, do they go heavy after that camp appeal, or do they instead try to make a badass action movie? And do they succeed at either one of those things? We’ll find out as I review Dredd, based on the British comic 2000 AD, created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, written by Alex Garland, directed by Pete Travis, and starring Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, Wood Harris, Domhnall Gleeson, and Warrick Grier.
The future (as always) is bad times. Most of the United States has become Fallout 3 and there is one city remaining called Mega-City One, where people do not typically get along. To fix that problem (as well as making the judicial system more efficient), the police have been made into Judges, who are judge, jury, and executioner all in one. A new drug that slows the user’s perception of time to 1% of normal (called “Slo-Mo”) is running rampant, dealt mainly by a ruthless drug lord named Madeline Madrigal, or “Ma-Ma” (Lena Headey), who punishes rival drug dealers by skinning them, giving them Slo-Mo, and throwing them from the top of a 200-story building. Lead badass Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is sent in to deal with the situation, bringing along potential recruit Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who has failed her aptitude tests, but still gets a shot because she’s a very powerful psychic. When they arrive, Ma-Ma has her computer expert (Domhnall Gleeson) lock down the building, turning this shit into The Raid: Redemption. Quasi-plagiarism is against the law, Dredd. I guess that doesn’t matter. After all, he IS the law.
I like to try to go into any movie with an open mind. I usually try, but usually fail. So I went into this movie pointing out a bunch of things that annoyed me, but we’ll get to those later. We’ll get to those later because this movie was actually pretty badass and, much like the remake of Total Recall, blew the original bullshit out of the water. And, by “original bullshit,” I mean the Stallone movie because I’ve never read the comic book. The story didn’t annoy me or impress me, but it was leaning more towards good than bad. It was just simple. It really was basically The Raid: Redemption with Karl Urban in it. But The Raid was awesome, and that still translates somewhat into this. I guess there were some problems with the story though. I took issue with the fact that Cassandra was in the situation that she was in. I didn’t dislike the character, but she’s a psychic and she can’t pass her aptitude tests? She seemed physically capable of the job, so I assume it was the Scantron section of the tests. Were there no Asians in the class she could psychically glean the answers from?
The action in this movie was fantastic, and the visual effects were great, with only minor problems. The action was great, and the violence was WAY over the top, but it was sweet. Visually, the movie worked very well, but the Slo-Mo effects started to bother me after a while. It looked good enough, but I started thinking that they chose this drug to pad out their movie because they didn’t really write enough of a story. I also thought the drug didn’t really make sense. I mean, it’s brutal to slow down perception of time when throwing someone over a balcony of a 200-story building, but what good does it do for regular times? I could understand the appeal of a drug that allowed you to move through the world as if it was slowed down to 1% because you’d be able to get a lot more shit done, but just have it seem slower as you’re sitting around in a bathtub? That feels boring.
The performances in this movie aren’t going to be winning any awards, but they do exactly what they set out to do. Karl Urban is a fuckin’ boss. End of story. Olivia Thirlby did a good job, but I admit that I was scarcely paying attention to her performance. I was too busy enjoying her hotness. Lena Headey was in the movie too, and she performed adequately, but I was bummed out that they decided to ugly her up with a lesbo haircut and a gnarly scar across her normally pretty face. I prefer to remember her face unscathed as it was in 300. Also, Domhnall Gleeson is in this movie. He did fine, and it’s cool that I recognized him from Harry Potter, but I really only mention him here because I hate myself and I wanted to punish myself for nothing in particular by making myself type his name again.
When I went into Dredd, I was wondering if it would even notice if I gave it a ‘D’ in my review because it already has three. *Insert rimshot here* But it doesn’t matter, because I’ll give it something it doesn’t already have, like a B or something. This version of Dredd is way better than the original, corny version of the character. Decent story, great action, Karl Urban is a boss, and the other performances were solid as well. Definitely worth checking out. I’ll probably be purchasing the movie on Blu-Ray. Dredd gets “Judgement time” out of “The perps were uncooperative.”
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