I was never sure what to think about this movie from the trailers. It looked pretty. Karl Urban looked like a cool Dredd. And the story reminded me--like many others--of Raid: The Redemption. So how did it really stack up? Here's the story: In the future, America is down to one Mega-City filled with 800,000,000 people. This city--MegaCity 1--is kept in some form of control by the Hall of Justice run by Judges, the law enforcement who are Judge, Jury, and Executioner all in one. One of the best is Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) who is assigned to take on a rookie named Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) to see how she stacks up on a day on the job. She borderline failed all exams, but she's also a psychic and can be useful. So as soon as they go on the job for the day, they pick an assignment at the Peach Tree living quarters--a giant tower slum run by Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), who just so happens to be in charge of distribution for a new drug called Slo-Mo. But instead of letting the Judges escape with any kind of proof of this, Ma-Ma locks down the tower and orders anyone willing to take the Judges down.

So, in other words... it's Raid: The Redemption, but without the martial arts. Actually, my comparison here is similar to that of the book versions of Battle Royale to The Hunger Games. BR is the better of the two; it's grittier, cooler, and has the better action. The Hunger Games puts a more clearly sci-fi twist to it, brings it down a few notches, keeps it entertaining, but handles a very similar idea in a different kind of way. So in this comparison, Raid is Battle Royale and Dredd is Hunger Games... but without the love triangle.

Likewise, my thoughts that Karl Urban looked like a cool Dredd was spot on, too. He plays the character perfectly, and he's just a total badass. The way he handles the situation and never loses his cool is great to watch. Even in the middle of all the chaos, he treats it almost like just another day, and he never forgets that he's assessing Anderson. He constantly asks her for her thoughts on what to do and then tends to go with it, giving a really interesting dynamic. Olivia Thirlby plays Anderson well, and she does get some badass moments of her own (I loved the mental interrogation scene and wished that was a little longer, even). And Lena Headey was menacing in a very down-played performance. Still, it was Karl Urban that completely steals the show, as he should. And no, he never takes off the helmet.

The one character I couldn't figure out my thoughts on, though, was a guy named Kay played by Wood Harris. He's one of Ma-Ma's top lackeys who gets arrested by Dredd and Anderson near the beginning and is basically held in their captive for the majority of the film. But here's why I couldn't figure out if I liked this or not: he was clearly a smart and sadistic character, but for at least the first half of the movie... he's just background fodder. He doesn't try to fight back. He doesn't try to escape. He doesn't try to get anybody's attention when they're trying to hide and/or stay silent. He just stands or sits there with the two Judges not making a sound, seemingly willing to do what they ask. At the same time, though, he does eventually start playing some mind games (mainly with Anderson), and it's more like he's just biding his time--but how did he know he had time to bide? And why risk it when the entire building is coming after these two? Anyway, it just seemed like a bit of a forced plot point, and it's a big one, which didn't help my thoughts much.

I also figured this movie would be pretty... and it was. The aesthetic of the film is nice. It's gritty when it needs to be and shiny when it needs to be. Overall, they gave it a really great look, from the sets to the costuming to the CGI Slo-Mo. And speaking of that... one worry I had was that they would over use the Slo-Mo. They didn't. In fact, practically every Slo-Mo sequence in the film is shown in the trailer. If I had any complaints about it, it's that I would have liked to see it used just a little differently. For instance, there's a scene where some guys are forced to inhale it and then tossed over the railing to fall down the building. This could have been a great vertigo-inducing fall sequence, but it's never used to its full potential here. They kind of do it again, and much better, later on, though. That kind of made up for it.

Unfortunately, where this movie lost some of its points was in the action department. Perhaps it's just because it's so easily compared to Raid that it's even harder for it to live up to those action stylings. Most of the action in this movie is gun-related, which isn't incredibly exciting for a whole movie of it. Where it does regain points, though, is with those badass guns. The Judges' guns are sweet, able to do so many different things that it helps to really keep variation throughout. So I guess my complaint here is that it goes from one gun setting action sequence that lasts 30 seconds to a non-action sequence that lasts 5+ minutes to another gun setting action sequence that lasts a minute, etc. It felt like the balance of action to "walking around corridors" wasn't quite right... but it was almost there. (But don't get me wrong... the action that was there was a lot of fun in the realm of violence and excitement.)

Overall, it was a solid effort. Of course I'm going to say I prefer Raid over this in the action department in terms of this story. But in terms of characters and whatnot, Dredd is a total badass, and I could watch Karl Urban as Dredd all day. He was just so much fun. And Olivia Thirlby was good, too. Will I be going out to buy it the second it hits the shelves? Probably not. But if it comes on TV or a friend wants to check it out, I would definitely stop to watch it again. And I would check out a sequel, too, if Urban reprised the role. It was fun.

I Am McLovin!

(P.S. The 3D was pretty good. There were some excellent shots with it... but it's not necessary to see it with the 3D. Still, you won't be disappointed if you do. It's done quite well.)

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