Linux on Film: Dredd (2012)

Category: Linux

One of the elements that made the original RoboCop (1987) so good was seeing Alex Murphy deal out some major butt-kicking in spite of the losing battle he was facing against the city, politicians and his makers. And Dredd (2012) serves this very experience ala carte. I don't think the reboot of Robocop can come close to the sheer audacity of Dredd. Dredd is a straightforward no-nonsense cop-thriller set in the future. Judge Dredd is presented as he should be - a dedicated, incorruptible cop with a powerful firearm.


Linux/Unix once again makes a cameo appearance in the form of Peach Trees online maintenance system that controls the web cameras, elevators, blast doors and PA systems. The formulaic technical administrator (sigh, another one) working for the bad guys comes in the form of a wiry, albino kid who gets his belly button threatened by Ma Ma (played by Lena Headey). The windows he opens are graphical representations of the building, a Terminal and a web cam stream. Like most films featured in this Linux on Film series, the window manager is a plain, single color window and largely unadorned. Although the filmmakers may or may not have blurred the computer screens on purpose, sharp-eyed Linux users will notice a command with extensions along with a Root terminal in one of the pivotal scenes.

For all we know, Judge Dredd's Lawgiver firearm runs on Android - maybe in the future OSX, Windows, and iOS are all extinct.

Mini-Review (Spoilers!)

I'm often disappointed when I venture out and watch action movies, having retired from the genre after more than three decades of Bruce Lee, Lethal Weapon, classic Jackie Chan, and James Bond. Unlike fairly recent comic book movies like Man of Steel (2013) and Iron Man III (2013), however, there are moments when you actually believe Dredd and Judge Anderson can die (I was hyper-ventilating when they locked down Peach Trees and Ma Ma called in the corrupt Judges). The threat was actually convincing, which is rare for a comic book movie.

Another plus for Dredd is the lack of children. I absolutely hate it when filmmakers pander to the audience by adding children in movies. Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, Green Lantern, Spirits of Vengeance and even Nolan's Dark Knight Rises all added ridiculous scenes with children (and I was so disappointed when I saw screencaps of Andrew Garfield next to a mini-Spider Me for The Amazing Spider-Man sequel). Dredd, thankfully, does no such thing. In fact, the two idiotic kids who even attempt to assault Dredd gets shot (though I fervently wished Dredd used hollow points rather than a stun blast).

Corrupt cops, drugs, "smug, tough" guys, and a black bully (who was more detestable than Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones) gleefully all get their asses whipped. I absolutely hate guns and I avoid action movies that depend solely on gunfights but Karl Urban's skillful and intelligent approach to Dredd made the multi-purpose firearm tolerable. Unlike most cops in movies these days (ahem, Mark Wahlberg) he wasn't a poseur and unlike Christian Bale, projected an excellent badass voice. Physically speaking, Urban doesn't match the Judge Dredd in the comic books (Stallone in the much-lampooned 1995 movie actually physically resembled the character minus the face, which was never revealed in the books), but Urban was Dredd in every other way.

Judge Anderson, played by the immensely talented and very beautiful Olivia Thirlby, made psychic powers cool again. I hadn't been impressed with psionic use in popular media since Chris Claremont's seminal run on Uncanny X-Men (circa 1984) and X-Men (early 1990s). Psionic powers in comic books are now overused, stupid and misplaced (see Marvel's current books and untalented writers). Ms. Thirlby fits perfectly in the ugly surroundings of Peach Trees, an angel of a Judge with a great spin kick she pulls off with panache in one of the movies best scenes (I practically whooped when that black guy's hand exploded).

Poor Lena Headey doesn't get to do much here as Ma Ma. Headey slipped into her roles as Sarah Connor and Cersei very well, but failed to produce a convincing drug lord in Dredd. Although I'm not looking forward to her return as Queen Gorgo in the 300 films, I'm glad she's getting plenty of attention despite haters of her trademark smirk.

The gore and lack of subtlety in Dredd may put off critics, but the pacing, suspense, and no-nonsense, unapologetic use of violence was surprisingly refreshing. Add excellent Karl Urban and Olivia Thirlby and you get a change of pace from suddenly flat and forced superhero movies.

As a final note, though, Linux guys don't scream like a little girl (and the star screensaver is so 1992).


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