Judgement is delivered
Pete Travis’s Dredd is a good example of both relentless violence and the evolution of action movies. Screenwriter Alex Garland moves beyond the boundaries of the genre to bring one of the bleakest comics ever made to the screen in just fashion. John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, the creators of the comic 2000 A.D. (which first featured Judge Dredd), would surely approve.
Today’s Dredd is a reboot of the already comic-adapted Judge Dredd, starring Sylvester Stalonne. The old Judge Dredd got abused by critics, but it’s a classic example of the previous era of action movies built from chiselled bodies and cheesy one-liners. Today, we have 3D, CGI, and “slo-mo,” which we all remember from The Matrix. But in Dredd, slo-mo is actually a by-product of the flawed future, a city-plaguing drug that impedes order and progress. In the residential block, reminiscent of Dante’s circles of hell, Peach Trees is a hive for the narcotic. By inhaling a puffer, you experience time at a microfraction of a second. While experience may be enhanced, bodily functions take a hit. For the movie-goer, it makes for some mesmerizing shots that are as visually appealing as Zack Snyder’s 300.
Mega City 1, the municipal territory between Boston and Washington D.C., is a hellish place. Beyond the borders is a wasteland, and inside its walls is not much better. Crime is the rule of life, and Judges are the last remnants of order. They uphold and administer the law from their very bodies; they sentence or give capital punishment at the scene of the crime. Karl Urban as Dredd is a bit hard to relate to, and as the leading Judge of the story, he is a cold, yet rational deliverer of justice.
Music can either make or break a movie, a point recently made by Josie Dye on the radio station 102.1 the Edge. Although the soundtrack doesn’t need to save Dredd, the mixture of techno, dark industrial, and death metal definitely amplifies the awesomeness that already exists. On its own, the music could be the soundtrack to a nightmare. But in Dredd it helps choreograph the action sequences as if they were inspired by slasher horror. The action genre has never been so chilling.
The terrifying Ma-Ma (played by Lena Headey), establishes herself as the rightful queen and mother of the future’s saviour and dominates her screen time with sheer force. Yet don’t be fooled, because she isn’t an inspiring heroine. Instead she represents all that is wrong with Mega City 1. Bestial, sinister and unforgiving in her stature, Ma-Ma brings the future a tormented past, overpowering the weak with stimulants and unleashing havoc on an overburdened justice system. The war in the city becomes the occasion for her personal war.
The futuristic setting of Mega City 1 represents a possible outcome of today’s society, demonstrating the connection between technology and speed that philosopher Paul Virilio talks about. Today, everything is instantaneous, and speed has become a very human quality. In Dredd even the law becomes instantaneous, rendering the judicial process arbitrary and null.
You can decide which is scarier: the fascist practice of instant justice or the apocalyptic landscape that makes it a necessity.
3 ½ / 5
- Marco Filice