Dredd is a nasty action movie, supremely stylish at all times, unexpectedly funny (though in a very dark fashion), unrelenting with its pyrotechnics and blood-splattering, and for the better part of its quick yet lethal run-time, the film reminds you that sometimes it’s possible for an ultra-violent, hard-R endeavor to be both artistically fascinating and consumer friendly. Flamboyantly directed by Pete Travis (Vantage Point) and crisply written by Alex Garland (Ex-Machina, Sunshine, Never Let Me Go), this is an explosive piece of filmmaking that continually shreds on repeated viewings, dipping into exploitation realms and subversive genre-busting sometimes in the same scene, with the all-forward-momentum plotting involving Judge Dredd (the perfectly cast Karl Urban) taking on an army of drug-dealing goons, all of whom work for a psychopathic boss named Ma-Ma (wonderfully vile Lena Headey), inside of a 200-story high-rise living space where the only law is death. There are some seriously gnarly bits in this film, all of it gruesome yet strangely beautiful in a dark, grungy, tripped-out fashion.
That’s because the real star of Dredd is the film’s bold and brilliant cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire, Rush, Trance, Snowden, Antichrist); this movie is eye-popping to such a degree that numerous shots require immediate rewind POWER because of how insane they are. The drug-induced slow-motion sequences are transfixing, and to be honest, visually intoxicating; I had never seen anything like it before I had experienced what they did in Dredd. Olivia Thirlby was also very memorable as Dredd’s rookie-partner with a special secret; Garland is adroit in layering surprises into his narratives. Released in 2012 to surprisingly excellent reviews yet anemic box office results, there’s been talk of a sequel by this film’s rabid fan base, with some signs pointing to a follow-up potentially happening in the near future. Original Judge Dredd creator John Wagner served as a consultant on the film, despite the fact that the filmmakers took an all-new approach to his iconic material. Comparisons to The Raid are inevitable and apt.