Movie Review: Dredd

Movie Review: Dredd

Restoring order in post-apocalyptic America

By Mark HadleyWednesday 24 Oct 2012MoviesReading Time: 3 minutes

Mark Hadley reviews the return Judge Dredd in the new film 'Dredd'.

Judge Dredd is an iconic comic character hailing from a future a world away from the pristine Star Trek existence. His latest outing, Dredd, may be set in a world we’d hate to visit but it enforces a standard we’ve often craved in this day and age.

Judge Dredd comics have been in the hands of teenagers since 1977. He’s also starred in various books and board games, as well as several albums from the heavy metal set. Most notably Sylvester Stallone portrayed him in the 1995 comedy-action flick Judge Dredd. Seventeen years later it’s Karl Urban (The Bourne Supremacy, The Lord of The Rings) who is donning his battered helmet…
Some time in the future a cataclysmic disaster has turned most of the planet into a scorched wasteland known as the Cursed Earth. Humanity’s survivors are penned up in a scattering of Mega Cities where unemployment is 96%. Judge Dredd polices the streets of Mega City One where overcrowding has resulted in an almost limitless crime wave…

“There are twelve serious crimes every minute, seven thousand a day,” he advises rookie cadet officer Anderson (Olivia Thirlby). “We can respond to about six per cent.”

In order to maintain order the city’s Judges have been given full authority to investigate, apportion blame and carry out sentences – judge, jury and, if need be, executioners. As the Chief Judge summarises, “80 million people living in the ruin of the old world in the structures of the new one and the only thing standing between them and chaos – judges.” When a new drug called Slow-Mo hits the streets Dredd is called in to bring his definitive form of the law to its heavily armed distributors. 

Be warned Dredd is an undeniably violent film, but it manages to preserve some of the tongue-in-cheek humour that characterizes the comics. Out on patrol the mentally gifted Cadet Anderson walks into a firefight without her protective headgear, earning a rebuke from her mentor:
Dredd: I was wondering when you’d realise you’d left your helmet behind. 
Anderson: Sir a bullet can interfere with my psychic abilities. 
Dredd: I think a bullet would interfere a lot more. 
At its heart Dredd is not terribly dissimilar to the Westerns of the 1960s. Dredd finds himself in the out-manned, out-gunned position of many a Marshall and his authority is also backed up by his sidearm; his gun is actually known as a ‘Lawmaker’. But like its Hollywood ancestors, Dredd is built on a craving to see justice absolutely dealt out to the absolutely deserving. 
Hollywood and ticket-buyers have always agreed that the dangerous and deliberately rebellious have to be met with equal or greater force if peace is to prevail. Give police the go-ahead to shoot hostage takers? Certainly. Apply the death penalty to mass murderers? Tick. Approve invasions to take down terrorists? Sure thing. It’s a philosophy that follows us into the real world, and we are morally outraged when we see leniency given to the unrepentant. The problem rises, though, when we see that unflinching justice applied to ourselves.
Unashamed evil requires unflinching justice – but where does that leave us when we come to our unrepentant rebellion against God? If there’s an archetype in scripture for Judge Dredd it has to be the Angel of Death sent to destroy those who oppose God’s will, with alarmingly similar results. I think at least some of the objection to the ‘God of the Old Testament who could permit such things’, though, is the realization He might not see opposition any differently.
Yet Dredd and the Gospel have at least one thing in common: the presence of mercy. Both Jesus and Dredd know how to save those whose hearts are in the right place. In Judge Dredd’s case he chooses to overlook an infringement, and this actually weakens the film. By contrast Jesus turns out to be made of tougher stuff, upholding the law but personally paying the penalty so the penitent can enjoy absolute peace.

RELEASE DATE: October 25