Dredd did not do well this weekend: It pulled in $6 million this weekend for a sixth place finish. Against a $50 million budget, that’s… not great.
So, rally your friends. Drag in your family. Do what you have to to make this movie a hit, because it’s one of the most faithful adaptations of a comic ever made. And as a bonus, it’s actually really good. Great, even.
It’s not a perfect movie. There’s one fridge-logic moment to it that ruins the suspense of the final act a bit. The movie spends way too much of the first act showing off the effects of the “slo-mo” drug. And because it sticks close to the comics, Dredd is largely a stock character. He does get a few moments where we get some insight into who he is, but he also never takes the helmet off.
What makes it work is that it’s actually a very bold movie in some respects. I heard Lionsgate was involved and to be honest, I automatically wrote it off. Lionsgate makes its money by turning out product for a low budget. This is the house that Saw built. They take no risks, financial or artistic.
But Dredd is a different beast. It’s gory, arty, ambitious in scale yet modest in design, a movie that genuinely earns its R-rating. The depictions of Mega-City One are restrained enough to seem realistic but elaborate enough to make sense. The flybys are cleverly edited to create a sense that this world is not so far away and yet the details are over-the-top without being absurd.
Pete Travis and Alex Garland aren’t shy about showing risks in the line of fire — like innocent people getting killed — or throwing in moments of black comedy or just simple consideration. There’s genuine thought and design that goes into this movie’s world, visuals, and script, which is tight as a drum aside from a few nitpicks. It’s not about what looks cool: It’s about what makes sense to the setting. Similarly, shaky-cam has been banned. Pete Travis understands that in an action scene, geography is crucial.
The cast is also uniformly excellent. Lena Headey is great as a cracked-out, bitterly-cynical drug queen, and Olivia Thirlby takes her role as the real hero and audience surrogate and runs with it. Karl Urban isn’t called on to do much aside from shoot people and growl, but he brings a dry humor and timing to the role that makes it work.
It’s essentially the most faithful adaption possible, and yet stands as its own movie. It’s genuinely worth seeing if you like violent action movies, love the comics, or just miss when going to an R-rated movie meant something beyond a movie having three spoken f***s instead of two. Seriously, if you love gritty action movies, Dredd is something you need to see.