dredd-poster

After the nuclear holocaust, the ruins of America’s eastern seaboard are united under police state rule as Mega City One, a sprawling urban squalor infested with crime, with “only one thing fighting for order in the chaos: judges.”  One such judge is Dredd (Karl Urban), a man whose passionate dedication to law enforcement is so profound that his mouth is permanently frozen into a psychotic pout as he zooms around the city righteously blasting tattooed dopeheads.

In Dredd, the titular hero has an especially rough day on the job when, along with rookie partner Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), he finds himself locked into a ghetto megastructure (the overgrown futuristic equivalent of a housing project) and pitted against its masters, drug queenpin Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her minions.  The resulting adventure approximates The Running Man meets Escape from New York meets Assault on Precinct 13, with police woefully outnumbered against frightening futuristic odds.

With its charismatically grim avenger and pulsing electronic music, Dredd makes for a fairly slick glorification of authoritarian skull-cracking and high-tech fascism.  There remains in the public’s imagination a fascination and a seduction in quasi-vigilante cops after the Dirty Harry mold; Dredd, likewise, in its more macho moments, almost succeeds in lulling its audience into idiotic obedience in slavishly licking the iron heel.

An irony of Dredd‘s dangerous indulgence toward the police state, however, is its desire to depict iron-fisted government brutality as the solution to social problems which, though the script seems oblivious of the fact, are actually caused by the policies of precisely that glorious fascistic leviathan.  Manufacture and sale of drugs appear to be the major generators of wealth for the ghetto dwellers; but the state, through its prohibition of the people’s livelihoods and pastimes, has only succeeded in creating hellholes of systemic violence in which only the most vicious criminals and corrupt police are allowed to profit and thrive.  The exorbitant level of unemployment indicates that Mega City One’s Hall of Justice is probably doing its enlightened utmost to strangle other potentially productive areas of commerce, as well.

Dredd‘s budgetary constrictions rarely interfere with its considerable entertainment value.  The action scenes are adequate, the pace is consistently brisk, and the evocation of a grimy, dystopian future is sordidly picturesque and amusing if also somewhat half-baked.  Urban is quite watchable in the lead and Dredd lays a workable foundation for a potentially fun series of films down the road.

4 of 5 possible stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Dredd is:

7. Antiwar.  Nuclear conflict has destroyed most of America.

6. Pro-miscegenation.  It’s the progressive future, so it’s casual.

5. Torture-friendly.  Psychic interrogation may be more efficient, but an old-fashioned beating is also acceptable.

4. Multiculturalist.  The Chief Judge (Rakie Ayola) is black, as are representative medical professionals.  As in 80s vigilante films, street gangs, or at least the Ma-Ma Clan, are a multiracial affair (but one gang, the “Red Dragons”, is all Asian, apparently, and another group identified as “the Judged” is represented by a brown face).  In progressive acknowledgment of multiple intelligences, affirmative action is in effect in Hall of Justice human resources decisions.  Anderson, who has failed her qualification examination by a margin of three points, is given a chance because she is psychic.

3. Feminist/pro-castration.  Tough-as-nails Ma-Ma, formerly exploited by an abusive pimp, “feminized the guy with her teeth”, took over his business, and built a successful drug empire.  Humor is more than once milked from the idea of damaged or destroyed male sexual organs.  A thug is doomed from the moment he taunts Anderson, “Got any last words, bitch?”

2. Anti-drug.  Slow-mo, the illegal drug of choice in the futuristic ghetto, creates an experience of reality that moves at 1% normal speed.  It is evil for postponing the user’s inevitable progress into the glorious future.  Thus, conservatism or resistance to change is reimagined in Dredd as a narcotic addiction and an obstacle to big government new world order progressivism.

1. Statist/fascist.  Society, breaking under its own weight, needs to be protected from itself.  Search warrants, Miranda rights, habeas corpus, right to trial, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment are annoyances that have, conveniently for the state, been discarded in Mega City One.  Statism gives itself the ultimate pat on the back with Anderson, the psychic judge who proves that the benevolently omniscient and omnipresent state, like Santa Claus before it, knows who is naughty and who is nice.  Gun control, too, receives an endorsement when, as with Bond in Skyfall, Dredd is shown at a disadvantage against lawbreakers’ superguns with high ammunition capacity and rapid fire action.  Citizens live in fear of “the gun, [and] the gang” (presumably with reference to the private and not the public varieties).

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