Anderson: “Sir, he's thinking about going for your gun.”
Anderson: “He just changed his mind.”
A Quick Summary
Is it any coincidence that this came out a year after The Raid (2011)? Following a very similar formula, this movie follows a couple of Judges (Dredd played by Carl Urban and rookie Anderson played by Olivia Thirlby) into a locked-down gang-controlled tower where they must use their wits and weapons to survive and serve justice.
Reception at the Time
The consensus at the time of release seemed to be that it was “okay.” Rotten Tomatoes average score is a 6.5/10, indicating that critics considered this a good movie, but barely. Most of the focus was on the extreme portrayals of violence, and it either gained or lost points based on each individuals taste for it. Some critics also called out the fact that it was released in 3D. It nearly always lost points for that. This was post-Avatar (2009) and viewers were getting tired of it.
Meanwhile, general audiences… didn’t see it. The studio infamously bungled the marketing and failed to get butts in seats. Despite the generally positive reviews, movie-goers were confused resulting in Dredd becoming a big ol’ flop.
How It’s Aged
I believe this movie has aged particularly well for a number of reasons.
First, recent events have continued to bear out the biting satire behind the Dredd universe. Cops playing judge, jury and executioner? You don’t say.
Second, this movie very cannily subverts the girl in the tower trope. We get a mini Princess (2022)-style sequence in the back half of this that ultimately proves the aptitude of Anderson. She gets one of the best moments of the movie when she faces a crooked Judge on her way down.
Third, the special effects have aged surprisingly well due to this being a B-movie. The world looks *good* and whenever the cracks show it just enhances the gritty/raw nature of this film.
Of course, the elephant in the room is that this movie dropped near the height of 3D movie exhaustion. It would’ve been impossible to separate this from the craze at the time. Not so difficult now!
A highlight for me was the deadpan humor, and I mean DEAD. All of the characters are deathly serious; their line readings are as dry as the post-apocalyptic wasteland just outside Mega-City One. And that’s the bit.
Another stand-out feature for me this time around was Slo-Mo, the hot new drug that slows time for the user. We, of course, get to experience a number of scenes from this perspective. This is yassified bullet time; colors become hyper-saturated and water, glass and blood sparkle. No bullets are dodged here, however. Bodies slowly deform as they’re hit with bullets and smashed into walls. It becomes hard to watch, yet harder to look away.
Dredd achieved cult status the instant it became available on DVD and fans have been campaigning for a Dredd sequel ever since. Anecdotally, I’ve noticed many letterboxd users ratcheting up their ratings after repeat viewings. In a world where the satire-filled, hyper-violent series The Boys (also starring Urban) is the king of streaming television, it’s safe to say Dredd has aged well.
“Negotiation's over. Sentence is death.”
Published on Tardy Critic, a film blog where movies are reviewed ten years late.