This week for my long-running column I wanted to do something special, something rare, and something unheard of. (And for me something I’ve NEVER done before!) Not only am I going to revisit a past film I’ve already taken on critically while here at Starpulse.com, but I’m going to do the review unthinkable – I’m going to change my opinion. (Think pulling a Shawn Edwards ala his “Hangover 3” quote minus the money and shameless self-promotion!) Welcome film fans to….Forgotten Friday Flick!
Today’s selection of the action outing “Dredd” starring Karl Urban got a mere 3 out of 5 stars from me when I witnessed its wares on video back in 2012 and the backlash from readers was deafening – here’s the original review:
A far cry from the lame and fluffy 1995 “Judge Dredd” with Sly Stallone, this updated version goes for a much darker and bleaker vision of crime and punishment and it certainly helps. In fact, the surly “Dredd” this time around (“Star Trek’s” Karl Urban) is much more fitting to the source material – a no-nonsense cop with a single focus of doing the job. Problem here is that the story setting, which finds Dredd and his rookie trainee locked inside a tall building filled with bad guys with evil intentions, has already been done better this year. Meaning if you already saw “The Raid: Redemption” this one is gonna feel very familiar and seriously watered down. So no fast fight moves, kung fu fury or even the occasional brutal to the death here, just bitter gun brawls where everyone seems to be playing a game of mine’s bigger than yours. (Aka a tad uninspired!) The only things that give this one slight elevation are the fact that Urban NEVER takes off that damn judge helmet (a ballsy move man!) and the bad guy (or should I say bad woman!) here is one saucy and memorably caustic performance by “300” leading lady Lena Headey. (Love that scar Lena!) Dark and gritty, but only mildly entertaining, “Dredd” unfortunately has a serious case of Raid envy. (And yes, the Blu-ray 3D here is notable, but still doesn’t give this one Redemption factor!)
Folks accused me of timeline stupidity (“Dredd” was made before “The Raid!”), ignorance in the way of action and just plain being wrong. I shrugged it off as internet fodder and then a strange thing happened – I too became “Dredd” obsessed. Every time I would work on the computer and need a visual or audio aid I would find myself clicking my digital copy of “Dredd” and then easily going through the entire film. It wasn’t just a mere distraction or coincidence – “Dredd” becoming one of my all-time favorite films.
What changed my mind? As a character, Urban’s “Dredd” is a wondrous single focused machine of the law, but a very charismatic one. His line delivery, helmeted look and air of mystery captivated me more and more with each viewing. Plus with Olivia Thirby’s rookie in tow, I frankly found myself actually caring about what happens to the very unlikely duo. Don’t get me wrong – there’s plenty of cool carnage, rock stopping music, bad language and male and female machismo to provide the base pleasure, but in the realm of a story that sizzles, I found “Dredd” not just engaging but utterly re-watchable. And while “The Raid” did have a similar story setting, “Dredd” was entirely its own entity and as such had its own unique flavor that admittedly had me coming back for more.
My sentence since the review has been to live with the shame of giving a film a low grade, all the while watching it like it was a masterwork. So the final judgment? I’m officially changing the negative aspects of my review of the great “Dredd” and giving the film exactly what it deserves (and should have gotten from me in the first place!) – 5 stars. (I’ll gladly take two years in the Iso-Cubes for my crime!) “Dredd” is one damn fine film that should never be forgotten.
Cast: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirby, Lena Headey
Director: Pete Travis
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Company: Lionsgate