Dredd and violence

by Victor Rodriguez / Columnist • September 27, 2012

Spectacular visuals, a straightforward storyline, and relentless gore, Dredd, to the discomfort of some, is surely to soak viewers in the claustrophobic setting while giving them a dose full of adrenaline.

Set in a distant future, Mega-City One is a crime-ridden wasteland where a new drug called Slo-Mo is taking a hold of the population. Judge Dredd, impersonated by Karl Urban, is one of many law enforcers that act as judge, jury, and executioner to rid Mega-City One of injustice. On an ordinary day, Dredd is given the task to make an assessment on a rookie, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) to check if she is fit to join the ranks of Judges. Anderson failed the exam for admittance into law enforcement, but she bears a quality unlike any other; she is a psychic, and a powerful one at that, something that will come in handy for both herself and Dredd during the course of the film. These two Judges respond to a call from dispatch that directs them to a 200-story “mega-structure,” which is home to Ma-Ma (Lena Heady), the leader of production and distribution for the popular drug Slo-Mo.

Being a comic book adaptation, Dredd is a lot more faithful to its origins than its predecessor, Judge Dredd (1995) starring Sylvester Stallone, of which the author of the comic book, John Wagner, said “the story had nothing to do with Judge Dredd, and Judge Dredd wasn’t really Judge Dredd.” In contrast with his previous statement on Judge Dredd, Wagner said that “the characters and storyline in Dredd are pure Dredd.” Comic book fans will not be disappointed, the film is superb in its dark self-satirical dialogue and its nonstop violence from beginning to end. As Dredd fiercely kicks his opponent through the window, he closes the scene by simply saying “Yeah.” Talking in a stylized voice close to that of Christian Bale’s Batman, Dredd is not simply a character, but a visual myth. Throughout the course of the film we never catch even the smallest glimpse of his face, covered by a massive helmet, except for his ever-present commandeering mouth. Dredd is probably the most straightforward movie of the year, diving headfirst into the action, there are no love interests, no flashbacks, nothing other than the “here and now” of the movie.

Visually, shots are well placed, interesting, and slow-motion is widely used in stunning 3D. Director Pete Travis, having previously worked on Vantage Point and Endgame, films the movie at a fast pace, with varying shots that makes us forget that the great majority of ninety minutes have happened in a single building. However, it is cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle BSC, who takes the movie home by making violence aesthetically beautiful. Slow-motion is effectively used to follow a bullet that slowly pierces a man’s cheek and exits through his jaw, splashing the screen with a vibrant red accompanied by background colors. Cinematography is so bright and colorful that one would think the setting is beautiful when, in reality, it is just a gigantic block of concrete.

Dredd, to the surprise of those who are not into foreign action films, has, in fact, a story with structure that is almost identical to that of an Indonesian film, The Raid: Redemption (2011), which also takes place in one building as a group of elite cops are trapped in the headquarters of the mafia. Whether Dredd was intentionally or unintentionally portrayed as The Raid, this does not make Dredd weaker, but instead it acquires a trend-setting function for action films to come, and with the advancement of CGI, greater violence can be portrayed, making an epic action film apprehensible.