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Dredd (2012)

Lionsgate
4K UHD Released: 6/6/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/6/2017

There are many, many times where it seems that American filmgoers will seemingly pay to see anything. However, audiences do have memories and will occasionally reject something for reasons that they see as justified. In 1995, Judge Dredd was released into American theaters, introducing a new audience to the beloved comic book character...and promptly went nowhere. (Wait a minute, wasn't Rob Schneider in that movie?) The movie was rejected by fans of the comics and ridiculed by general audiences. In 2012, the character returned to screens in Dredd, in a film which was much more faithful to the source materials. However, it appeared that the people assumed that it would be more of the same and stayed away in droves. Did they miss something worth seeing?

In the future, civilization has been devastated by nuclear war. Mega City One stretches from Washington, DC to Boston. Outside of its walls lies a desolate landscape. Inside of its wall is a desperate urban landscape which is blighted by crime. Law enforcement is overseen by Judges, officers who act as police, as well as judge and executioner. Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is the most fearsome of them all -- a humorless, dedicated lawman who never waivers from the rules. As the story opens, Dredd is asked to evaluate Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a rookie with a mysterious past. She went through Judge training, but didn't make the cut. However, her psychic abilities could make her an asset in solving crimes. Dredd and Anderson are called to Peachtree, a massive high-rise apartment building, to investigate a multiple-homicide. Little do they know that the building is the headquarters of Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), the most notorious drug dealer in the city. Realizing that Judges are on the premises, Ma-Ma orders the building locked down, and Dreed and Anderson find themselves battling hundreds of thugs.

Several years before Fox took some chances with their comic book films Deadpool and Logan, Dredd decided to be faithful to the source material. One of the first things to note is one of the biggest leaps which they made. In the comic books, Judge Dredd has never revealed his face. So, despite the fact that Star Trek star Karl Urban was cast in the lead role, he never removes his helmet. Secondly, while Dredd is the main character of the story, he's also a man of few words and even fewer emotions. The film takes a huge chance by having the film revolve around Dredd while he has little reaction to it. It's the other characters who express the terror and excitement which is happening. These elements certainly separate Dredd from other comic films.

However, when you look past these components, what you have is an excellent action film. Dredd introduces a very simple, yet effective premise, and doesn't dig too deep with the characters -- we know just enough about them to movie the story along. It would be very easy to call the script here shallow or simplistic, but I think that minimalist would be more appropriate. Just as Dredd is a no-nonsense character, Dredd is a no-nonsense movie. Within minutes, we have the main characters, and not long after that, Dredd and Anderson are trapped in the building. From there, we have a mixture of cat & mouse and forceful action sequences as the pair make their way to Ma-Ma. The movie offers some minor twists and turns, but it never tries to be overly clever. The finale introduces an interesting wrinkle, which revolves itself in a matter of fact way. From start to finish, Dredd is sparse, to the point, and packed with action.

While Judge Dredd took the concept and did very little with it, Dredd remains very faithful to the comics and attempts to show why the character has been popular for decades. Writer Alex Garland shows common sense by not trying to take poetic license with the comic book -- he takes the essence of the characters and places them in a story which rings true to the comics. Director Pete Travis has taken these ideas and placed them in a world with feels convincingly gritty. In addition, he does a fine job with the action sequences and the look of the moments in which the drug "Slo Mo" is used. The result is an excellent example of what a sci-fi action movie can be. So, if you skipped Dredd because you were afraid that Stallone would pop up, do yourself a favor and check it out.

Dredd does not make apartment living look appealing on 4K UHD courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the UHD contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 80 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear. However, there is a sheen of grain on the image throughout the film. One could argue that this gives Dredd a gritty look, but I think that most people expect a 4K UHD to be crystal clear. Likewise, the colors are good, but not great. However, despite the fact that this is a dark film, the image is never overly dark. The depth is OK (but not great if you've seen the 3D version), as is the level of detail. In short, this isn't much of an improvement over the Blu-ray Disc. The UHD carries a Dolby Atmos (7.1) audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a muscular track which brings home every gunshot, explosion, and punch in the film. The subwoofer effects are powerful, providing wall-shaking bass. The stereo and surround effects deliver individual sounds, filling the speakers with effects during the action sequences, often highlighting sounds coming from off-screen.

The Dredd 4K UHD contains several extra features. "Mega-City Masters: 35 Years of Judge Dredd" (14 minutes) offers interviews with Co-Creators John Wager & Carlos Ezquerra, along with artist Brian Bolland who discuss the origin and history of the character. We see many panels from the comic here. "Day of Chaos: The Visual Effects of Dredd" (15 minutes) shows us the magic which was used to create Mega City One, the environments of the block, and the use of slow-motion. "Dredd Featurette" (2 minutes) is like a trailer with interviews inserted. "Dredd's Gear" (3 minutes) gives us a brief look at Dredd's gun, armor, and helmet. "The 3rd Dimension" (2 minutes) focuses on the use of 3D, which is kind of weird, as this isn't the 3D version. "Welcome to Peachtrees" (3 minutes) takes us inside of the apartment block to see the design. The extras are rounded out by a "Motion Comic" and a TRAILER.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long