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Dredd (2012) Review

Everyone knows how I feel about Marvel films at this point. Mass produced tat made for an ocean of people whose attention spans can’t stretch past vivid CGI effects and falsified emotions that follow an identical track to every other film before and after its respective release. They’re as generic and oversaturated as any long-lasting film franchise, so when I dive into superhero films not related to Marvel or D.C., I’m always rather optimistic. Dredd is one of the few characters in the comic book universe that I have more than a passing interest in, and having been told to avoid the 90s Sylvester Stallone adaptation, Judge Dredd, I’m left with the Karl Urban starring Dredd from 2012.

Following the eponymous law enforcer played by Urban, Dredd is an action-packed adaptation of the Judge Dredd comics. Frankly the best performance in the film is that of Urban, one that brings together the themes and practices of the comic book and the action-packed roots of the film genre together in a superb display of hilarious one-liners akin to the cheesy action days of old and the modern conventions of what the genre has become. Teaming up with Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) gives us the perfect mixture of an optimistic rookie and a hardened field veteran working as a team under terrifying and tense circumstances.

Unfortunately, some of the supporting characters feel completely unfulfilled and without consequence. They follow the tropes of the action film because they don’t need to be anything more than that, but it’s always a shame when characters without any real build-up are killed off, especially when they had such potential to be more interesting. Hell, even characters that make it through to the bitter end are inconsequential at best. Domhnall Gleeson is fast becoming a favourite of mine, through and through one of the best actors around and with such a surprising repertoire in a career that has a few more decades in it, it surprises me that his role in Dredd isn’t a bit more engaging or interesting. Not the best performance he’s given either, but certainly serviceable for the few scenes we’re treated to.

The biggest waste of all though comes from the villain, Ma-Ma, who is as generic as you’d expect for an action film. Props to the movie for not attempting to make her anything more than a bad guy and general threat to the ambitions and mission of our heroes, but there should still be something more to her. Ma-Ma reminded me somewhat of Alan Rickman’s performance as Hans Gruber in Die Hard, a villain for the sake of it, but the key difference between the two is the charisma and dialogue they have on offer. Ma-Ma doesn’t really have all that much to say in regard to what can be considered interesting, and the performance on the whole from actor Lena Headey is rather underwhelming. A shame, since her role as a simplistic, one dimensional villain is succeeded rather well through some frankly great design choices on the part of the makeup artists and Headey is a great performer, it just crumbles a bit toward the end.

It has taken me every fibre of my being to make it this far without incorporating the title into some horrifically low par pun that will completely destroy the flow and structure of the review. I’m glad we made it to the end without such issue though, it would’ve been Dreddful otherwise. A great leading performance that truly encapsulates the very vision and image of Judge Dredd brings about some incredibly engaging action, with fast paced brutality around every corner. It’s far from perfect, but Dredd is a stupendous action piece that has a near-endless energy to it from start to finish.

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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