Director Pete Travis’ Dredd drops the ‘Judge’ from the title of the 1995 camp-fest, Judge Dredd, and in doing so, evokes a heaviness that feels more, yes, ‘dreadful’ than its original Sylvester Stallone vehicle, with carnage piled upon carnage and gorgeous blood splattery dominating any semblance of a storyline. Less of a remake and more of an explicit adaption of the British comic book, 2000 AD, fanboys of the legendary Dredd character will be pleased to know Dredd is a slick and glossy homage to the comic-book hero. Of course it lacks the depth and complexity of what you might find on the page, or in other big name adaptations, like The Dark Knight, but who the fuck cares? The creative juice is poured into effective shots of bullets ripping through skin, bodies blowing the fuck up, and women being sexually assaulted — not words coming out of mouths. A visual assault of lights and glistening fluids, Dredd is an aesthetically impressive piece of garbage.
Dredd (Karl Urban) is a pillar of patriarchal rationale and justice working as a crime-fighting ‘Judge’ in the post-apocalyptic warzone known as Mega City One. He executes on command and delivers snarly one-liners like a 2012 version of RoboCop. His newest partner, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), is a total babe who also happens to be psychic, thus she proves to be both valuable and a hassle to Dredd as she subverts his killing instincts. Their first case together is busting Ma-Ma (Lean Heady, who seems to love the role), a drug-dealing Madam who runs a kind of glorified SRO called Peach Trees. Her drug of choice is Slo-Mo, which, true to its name, exhibits effects similar to hallucinogens like DMT or salvia: time slows and reality becomes a penetrable blob. It also provides for exaggerated gore in certain scenes as bullets move in slow motion through flesh and brain matter. This level of violence is transcendent, almost blissful in its expression. And Travis paces these scenes far and few between, so the shock stays sharp.
Unfortunately, the film can’t run on these scenes alone, and what happens between them is mostly cat-and-mouse filler. With such an emphasis on the blood aesthetic, one would think the chance to create a 200-floored chase would provide corridors and hallways just as maddening as the drug-fueled shootouts. But little attention is paid to the power of space, and more attention is paid to Urban’s jawline and Thirlby’s tough flower demeanor. The suggestion of fatherly affection is only hinted at (thank god), and the relationship between Dredd and Anderson is left mostly alone. There is, of course, the problematic premise of Anderson’s capability of discerning victims from criminals via psychic powers as inherently gendered, but who the fuck wants to talk about feminism when there’s shit blowing up and blood soaking the camera lens? I’ll take an orgy of cinematic violence over political lard any day. And Dredd doesn’t disappoint in that regard; instead, it rolls around like a vicious dog and salivates bullets and bodily fluids as we sit there, fat and amused, in our 3D glasses and XXXL tubs of popcorn. God Bless America.