When Lionsgate released their trailer for Dredd 3-D way back in July, we all basically thought the same thing: “Hey, this looks an awful lot like The Raid.”
It’s no wonder why. Just like The Raid, Dredd’s trailer sells a film in which an outmatched badass must take on an entire building of villains, battling level by level to the top floor where he must kill a drug kingpin who waits among cool, mini-boss henchmen.
You can cry foul all you want, but sometimes these things aren’t so simple. According to Wikipedia, Dredd started filming in Novemember 2010, while The Raid began its shoot four months later in March 2011. So there appear to be no shenanigans here to curse. We instead have something a bit more complicated. Two movies, completely independent of each other, both utilizing the completely awesome conceit of containing their action film within dangerous high-rises.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun comparing the two, if only to highlight what an embarrassment of riches we action fans have been enjoying recently. Head inside for the death match!
Dredd’s building is way taller than the relatively diminutive domicile featured in The Raid. Both buildings house innocent poor people as well as badasses, though Dredd’s appears to have a much higher poor innocent to badass ratio. As a result, The Raid’s tenement feels immensely more dangerous to walk around. That’s illustrated in each films’ respective number of action sequences. Dredd has a handful, while The Raid is pretty much all action from beginning to end.
In both films, our heroes cannot leave due to a building lockdown demanded from the main bad guy. In Dredd this basically amounts to a bunch of metal blast shields covering all exits. In The Raid, all exits are covered by snipers.
I personally found the snipers more threatening. Not only that, but there’s a part in Dredd where he actually gets out of the building and chooses to reenter, so the whole lockdown thing is clearly less important than in The Raid. For that reason alone, The Raid wins this one.
Finally, Dredd gets a little love. While I enjoy The Raid, its action is so simple and compact that we learn very little about the surrounding area other than it’s dangerous and corrupt. Dredd, however, takes place in an overpopulated future city with all kinds of interesting stuff going on. Just the one moment in which we visually see how overwhelmed the Judges are with crime does wonders for delivering a fun and new cinematic setting. They don’t do as much with it as they could, but that’s the price paid for the simple plot set-up, which is worth it in my book.
This one seems more obvious than it actually is. While The Raid’s all out kung-fu assault gets everyone excited in all the right ways, Dredd’s slow-motion face shooting should not go overlooked. Even when Dredd goes hand to hand, we get that incredibly icky throat smash kill. Add Dredd’s super cool futuristic guns with their wide array of voice-activated ammunition, and you have a surprisingly strong showing from this masked underdog. Unfortunately, it’s just not enough to overcome The Raid’s truly amazing scenes of physical combat, snipers, and refrigerator bombs.
When Dredd was just a mere trailer, its use of a female rookie sidekick raised a lot of red flags. Now that we’ve all seen it, however, Potential Judge Anderson ends up helping rather than hindering Dredd’s awesomeness. She’s a psychic who can totally hold her own both mentally and physically against The Wire’s Avon Barksdale. Furthermore, she and Dredd never have a boring, forced love story.
The Raid, in its infinite wisdom, had a pesky sidekick but shoves him out of the way as soon as possible, leaving Rama free to roam the halls like the lone wolf we wanted. Still, I’m kind of more impressed with Dredd’s successful use of a pesky sidekick rather than The Raid’s dismissal of the trope.
Dredd goes up against a narratively hyped and visually interesting Ma-Ma (played by Game of Thrones’ chilly Lena Headey). The Raid’s Rama has to deal with drug kingpin Tama Riyadi, a character we learn very little about. This one’s kind of a draw overall. Ma-Ma looks cooler, has a better backstory, and gets the better demise. But Tama seems far more raw and dangerous. Plus, he sounds really cool when he speaks.
VILLAIN KILLS OTHER VILLAINS SCENE:
So if that’s a draw, lets get more specific. Both films show us how bad their villains are by offering scenes in which they deal with internal conflicts (i.e. offing henchmen). In Dredd, Ma-Ma skins three guys alive and hits them with slow-mo just before dropping them 200 stories to their death. Pretty brutal.
The Raid’s Rama, on the other hand, just shoots his guys in the head. When he runs out of bullets on the last guy, he beats his head in with a hammer. Less showy, but equally effective.
Here’s the important difference: While Ma-Ma wins for sheer inventiveness, the slow-mo bit was not her idea. Furthermore, she does not dish out the punishment herself. Rama on the other hand, does his killing with his own hands. Therefore, he wins.
Ma-Ma has one traditional henchman, but Judge Dredd throws him over a balcony without much trouble. That would put her out of the contest, but she then calls up four dirty Judges to kill Dredd. They don’t succeed, but it’s a pretty cool move.
Unfortunately, The Raid has Mad Dog. No film is probably ever going to out-do Mad Dog as far as badass mini-bosses go. That little guy is just too insane.
Poor Dredd. In all honesty, it’s just not fair to put even the best action films up against The Raid. Dredd suffers but only by comparison. Action movies as pure and visceral as The Raid don’t come everyday. Dredd can reach some impressive cinematic highs and still be the inferior film. For my money, 98% of the film’s I have ever seen are inferior when it comes to The Raid.
At the end of the day, some concepts just make especially exciting films. Dredd and The Raid happen to share one of them. I wouldn’t mind a new version of the “Awesome badass fights an entire building of bad guys” sub genre once every year, regardless of how derivative of this or that film they may end up. I didn’t like The Hunger Games much, but I’m always ready for more films where kids have to hunt and kill each other. After all, how many movies do we have where a dude in a mask chops up teenagers? It’s a concept, and there are films enough to share.
If you haven’t seen Dredd yet, what are you waiting for? It’s an awesome, gory, action, science fiction film, the kind most people complain about missing lately. Karl Urban totally brings the hammer down on the role and the film manages to sidestep most of the stupid business that derails its ilk. Check it out and support R-rated sci-fi films while you still can.