Film Reviews

Dredd Pete Travis

Rating - 6/10


I can’t decide whether it’s a major accomplishment or a total disgrace that Dredd actually has us rooting for a fascist, totalitarian police force.  The titular hero is cop, D.A., judge, jury, and executioner, a trope that finds its roots in a long line of American characters from Dirty Harry to Paul Kersey to Rambo.  It seems like we've never been too comfortable with all those highfalutin concepts like due process and innocent until proven guilty, and we actually fancy the rapid retribution of the Old Testament Yahweh.  'Where your's brother Cain?  Uh huh. Get the fuck out of town!'  Or maybe, 'Y'all been wicked.  Hope you're thirsty cuz here come da flood!'  You gotta give it to us though, because of all the things to obsess over, justice isn't such a bad one.  However it can cause a few problems for innocent people, situationally speaking, when we get it wrong, or go too far.


Take the opening scene in Dredd.  HQ has identified a few sleazy guys wanted for drug offenses riding around in a van, flagrantly disregarding stop signs and proper driving etiquette.  Dredd is soon on the case, chasing them down on his motorcycle.  The perps spot him and start to flee, driving especially recklessly until an innocent bystander inadvertently walks in front of their speeding vehicle and gets splattered in glorious technicolor.  This is the moment Dredd's been waiting for since now he can book them on a capital offence, i.e. kill them. This all culminates in a mall where hoards of more innocent victims are mowed down until he gets to kill every last criminal, topping it off with a wisecrack in classic action hero style.  All I could think during this entire sequence was couldn't he call for backup, shoot out the tires, wait for them to trap themselves, run out of gas, anything that wouldn't leave tens of extras lying in a pool of fake blood?  Say what you want about the LAPD, but haven't they got this whole high speed chase thing figured out?  Ah, but what fun is that?


Dredd is forced to take on a rookie who the department believes in despite her poor performance at the academy.  We learn their faith in her is justified by certain psychic abilities which are about to come in very handy.  The pair is called out on a routine drug bust in a poor community housed in a huge, self sufficient government project, that also is home to a gang led by some skanky chick.  They bust one of the chick’s henchman and rather than let him talk, she shuts up the building and launches a manhunt to kill them.  You can pretty much guess the rest.  A combination of Dredd’s ruthless killing efficiency and his partner’s psychic talents wreak havoc and save the day. 


I saw the film, mercifully, in 2D, though the film is diverted by scenes of slow motion narcotic highs and folks plummeting from balconies clearly designed for the 3D market.  Without the 3rddimension, these effects were distracting and pointless.  Otherwise the film plays like a standard brainless action film which is exactly what it is.  And despite its despicable lack of a moral compass, it plays fairly effectively.  I didn’t so much enjoy it, burdened as I am with a conscience that I can’t fully shut off, but I was carried along with it, kept interested, and on some level entertained by the mass murder and mayhem, like any red blooded American should be.  There’s really not much to say about it outside of a Spengler-esque seminar on the degradation of values in contemporary culture.  If you see no problem with the film’s flippant attitude toward human life and rights, I’m sure you’re still cool to hang with, I just won’t be expecting you to dive in after me when, a la Camus’ The Fall, I plunge into the Seine late one night, unable to swim.