Look at this cover:
Bet you can’t tell that this movie is jam packed with feminist awesomesauce.
(and decently nuanced social commentary)
The future America is an irradiated wasteland. On its East Coast, running from Boston to Washington DC, lies Mega City One – a vast, violent metropolis where criminals rule the chaotic streets. The only force of order lies with the urban cops called “Judges” who possess the combined powers of judge, jury and instant executioner. Known and feared throughout the city, Dredd (Karl Urban) is the ultimate Judge, challenged with ridding the city of its latest scourge – a dangerous drug epidemic that has users of “Slo-Mo” experiencing reality at a fraction of its normal speed.
During a routine day on the job, Dredd is assigned to train and evaluate Cassandra Anderson, played by Olivia Thirlby, a rookie with powerful psychic abilities thanks to a genetic mutation. She’s repeatedly failed the exam to be a judge after being taken in by the justice system (which is what happens to all orphans).
A heinous, gory and special effects laden crime calls Dredd, played by Karl Urban (action hero extraordinaire 10 times over in Riddick, Doom, Star Trek, Xena: Warrior Princess and the upcoming Almost Human), and his fledgling to a neighborhood where fellow Judges rarely dare to venture – a 200 story vertical slum, Peach-Trees, controlled by prostitute turned drug lord Ma-Ma, played by the awesome Lena Headey (of the Sarah Connor Chronicles, 300, Game of Thrones and recently, a box office flop that I enjoyed Mortal Instruments), and her clan. When they capture one of the clan’s inner circle, Ma-Ma overtakes the compound’s control center and declares a bounty on the pair of judges. All of the Peach-Trees residents are locked in and hostage until Ma-Ma gets what she wants; two dead judges.
Now Ma-Ma doesn’t care which residents live or die as long as she gets what she wants. Which is simple: to not get busted. Anderson (the fledgling) grew up in a slum and is trying to reduce the casualties to the good people that unfortunately live in this shit hole, and Dredd wants to dispense justice. Dredd doesn’t care that the people could starve there for their non-compliance with Ma-Ma, he’s the law and they should abide by the law, unconditionally.
Anderson is trying to behave like a Judge. For those who attempt to kill a Judge the sentence is death. She uses her mutant psychic powers to barge into the apartment of a woman who tells the pair the location of a secret elevator so that they will get the hell off her floor and away from her family.
“Don’t thank me, I just don’t want to see you again.”
Anderson plays a game with their captive: My fucked up head versus your fucked up head, that makes the hardened criminal pee his pants.
Ambushed by a couple of kids. Their criminal gets the upper hand on Anderson and brings her to Ma-Ma.
Intent on making it look like a bust gone wrong, and one not involving them, Ma-Ma instructs: “No torture, no raping no skinning, just a bunch of bullets to the head and to the chest. Do you understand me?”
But they still don’t have Dredd. Amidst escalating violence they clan decides to call… 911. Other Judges show up to take Ma-Ma’s money and take on Dredd and Anderson. Bloodshed, broken necks, outlandish explosives and stapling together bullet wounds together ensue.
It was gritty, visually amazing, fun and frankly, pretty damn clever.
Dredd enforces the law as it’s written, something Anderson hasn’t proved she can comply with (which, given the absolute assurance of violence, isn’t such a bad thing) but the other Judges can be bought and sold. Something our main protags could never comply with.
The females in this story: Ma-Ma and Anderson, have their own sense of justice, separate from that of the government which has failed them both (and is failing all of Mega City One). Anderson wants to become a Judge, even though it’s clear from the beginning that the justice system has failed her both as a mutant and an orphan, how far is she willing to go? Is she willing to negate her sense of justice to distribute “justice”?
Ironically named Ma-Ma there’s not a shred of sympathy or softness towards those who stand in her way. But how else is she supposed to make money in this wasteland? Out of reasonable options, her reactions may be extreme, but it beats starving to death. Besides, Was Slo-Mo really hurting anyone? She turns their war on drugs turns into a real war. While I find it hard to sympathize… she’s undeniably badass.
If you are reading this today: Give it a watch, stream it, buy it, whatever and then take to the twitter and tell everybody that you want a Dredd2