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Dredd (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

One of the biggest cult films of the modern era has to be Lionsgate’s Dredd. The film surprised many and was well liked by those who saw it. It’s a comic and revival property that didn’t really take the world by storm though at the box office. It pretty much wound up breaking even at the box office. Fans have been persistently pushing for a sequel, but you gotta understand for Lionsgate its pretty risky. Karl Urban still gets questions and talks about it, but who knows what will come. Right now, word is that it will now be TV series. Lionsgate is respecting the fans here though, and dropping Dredd onto the 4K Ultra-HD format very early on, acknowledging that yes, it is indeed one of their more popular titles on home video. You can pre-order from the Amazon link at the end of the review to have yours waiting for you in your mailbox on June 6th when it releases.

Film 

The future America is an irradiated wasteland — a vast, ultraviolent world where criminals control the mean city streets. Ultimate law enforcers like Dredd and his new partner, Anderson, are Judges — the only force battling for justice. Dispatched by the central authority, the Judges’ target is Ma-Ma a ruthless boss bent on expanding her criminal empire through sales of Slo-Mo, a dangerous reality-altering drug. With Dredd calling the shots, the two Judges declare full-scale war on crime in this unrelenting and brutal, three-dimensional thrill ride.

Dredd features a really awesome scenario-based plot, that works and makes for a really fun angle, but unfortunately for the film, The Raid (aka The Raid: Redemption) got itself out there first and was a much more innovative and ground breaking film. STILL, Dredd manages to work, leaving the crappy Sylvester Stallone attempt from the 90s in the dust and being a somewhat of a classic in its own right. I do wonder how many of the big fanboy blowhards of this movie have actually seen The Raid, 0r if they had, did they see it first?  But then again, we all know both ripped of 1987’s Enemy Territory anyway.

As if I didn’t love Karl Urban enough already (A severely under appreciated actor in modern times), the man once again puts in a full commitment and puts character above himself/ego/whatever. He never once takes his helmet off in the movie. And he’s damn good in this role. The man has quite the resume in geek/comic/action/fantasy franchises over years being a part of Lord of the Rings, Doom, Bourne, Star Trek and Judge Dredd. The man works good in genre films as well as he does in dramatics (See Out of the Blue for one of his best performances). Opposite him is the film’s baddie, Ma Ma, played by Lena Headey. Another outstanding actor, she gets full on ugly and vile for this role. She’s not afraid to get gross or get crazy and is very hands with her character as well.

Dredd enters a nice little subgenre (That’s growing) of the R-rated comic book films. Before it, speaking mainly in modern times, there was only really The Punisher: War Zone (Also Lionsgate, also awesome, also my favorite Punisher film). It features super vicious kills, with lots of blood being spilled in glamorous fashion. Heads, bodies and limbs are mutilated, bloodied, exploded, you name it. It also features some heavy drug usage and plenty of cussing to secure it. There’s a sense of unpredictability with the R rating that helps Dredd along as well, showing how ruthless it could be, a bleak ending wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.

There’s also a little niche I love about Dredd and this probably had to do with writing a script to support a lower budget, but it all works. I love that we get that smaller story within a larger world. Its not the end of the world, we’re not going a lot of places, we aren’t seeing the biggest factions of the government or police. This is just one little bust and stakes within it. This is the kind of stuff that I love coming from science fiction. Only give the world a quick set up for background. Just tell this story. Let the look and characters give only pertinent details that really work for it rather than being exposition heavy or the ‘mostest importantest mission evarrrr!’

It was nice to be long removed from this movie when returning to it and also not having watched The Raid in a while. This helps Dredd.  Its a pretty terrific film in its own right. Its visually interesting, with plenty of artistic touch, but not too much so that it muddles the sort of blockbuster kind of appeal. And, this isn’t even close to being an origins story which is awesome. Does it need a sequel? I dunno and it doesn’t bother me if it doesn’t. I like that we have this nice little drop into the Dredd world and leave. There’s a lot told, a lot given from this one little story and its kind of enough to satisfy Dredd’s cinematic presence as a whole.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Dredd comes to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray with a wonderfully detailed, sharp and luscious picture. It fully uses HDR and is just beaming with good, crisp details. While I’m sure the judge helmets looked good before, you can just see the dirt, wear, dust and age of them.  There are many instances of wear and tear on the walls of the block as well as debris flying during action scenes. Weapon’s feature little ins and outs that are now very much visible. Here’s the drawback of this enhancement for the film; the CGI, which is strong factor in the effects, is much more noticeable than it was before. Its detail is impressive, but now its more obvious with the blood splatters and body/head disfigurations that happen in with the kills. Fire emanating from a gun blast or an explosion varies, but sometimes it looks more computerized and not fitting with live action stuff. There is also the scene with Lena Headey falling from the building that looks wildly like a green screen rear projection. None of this is ultimately a deal breaker or ruining of the film, its just that, I do the review, I gotta look out for it. Overall, the good far outweighs this little rendering thing with the graphics.

Depth:  Dredd was originally released as “Dredd 3D” in theaters and had a Blu-ray 3D release as well. As such, there is a terrific sense of spacing and good 3-dimensional attitude to everything. Characters move even more smoothly and feel even freer of the background. Camera movements and even static shots feature some good push-back kinda look to the backdrops. Slow-mo scenes are a real highlight to the depth in this transfer, where things look slow, incredibly spaced and very clean.

Black Levels: Blacks see a nice boost from the HDR in this transfer as well. Things feature much more information and lighting looks even richer, darker and still holding on to details. The uniforms of the judges features a lot more scuffs and texture to them. The shading and dark palette comes on quite strong. No crushing was witnessed during this viewing.

Color Reproduction: The HDR is out to play here in this 4K upgrade. Computer screens, digital counters, neon signs and the like all have a strong glow and lift right off the screen and have a real sharp to the touch look to them. Red blood really looks quite rich here as well. Just in general reds are strong, even making the scenes done totally in red lighting look quite gorgeous and sharp. Fire roasts with good oranges who’s vibrancy comes right off the screen. Greens, golds and blues are all strong as well. The blue eyes on the hacker dude are pretty mesmerizing to look at in those close ups. Overall, color has seen a pretty noticeable uptick from the previous format.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural in appearance and maintain a consistency from scene to scene throughout the film’s duration. Facial details like stubble, dried blood, sweat, make-up, lip texture, bruising, wrinkles and more come through clear as day with any given distance. Impressive too, is the make-up job on Lena Headey’s scar as it looks genuine and you can never “see the strings” so to speak.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (7.1 Dolby TrueHD default), English 2.0 Dolby Digital Optimized for Late Night Listening, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: Dredd has a jaw-dropping, incredibly fully realized Atmos track. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Whoever mixed this deserves all the monies. It is so distinct, so identifiable at all times and in every single direction. This movie perfectly lends itself to potentially having a good track, but this is something else and completely amazing. Sound design finds the vocals, sound effects and score all powerful and present, but loose, free and never stepping on one another’s toes. This tracks alone makes Dredd quite the engaging experience and I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed with it.

Height: This well realized track features plenty of stuff going on above. Slow-mo scenes see these getting in on the action. You also can hear things going on with the floors above our characters as they climb the building. You also get some bullets whizzing by and debris falling (and bodies).

Low Frequency Extension: Man, the sub really shake and rumbles the room here. A lot of the musical sound design just has a load buzz/rumble during times and the slow-mo scenes are all based in low frequency sounds. Adding to that are great gun blasts, explosions, bodies going splat on the pavement, punches connecting and motorcycle engines roaring.

Surround Sound Presentation: Here’s where this thing impresses. Someone spent some damn fine time on this. Every speaker has unique stuff coming out of it pretty much at all times in coordination to the events on screen. Just stop and listen to the whole thing when Dredd and Anderson find themselves trying to leave the commons at the end of act 1. Side to side, front to back, you have people talking, shopping carts wheeling along, doors opening…just daily commerce. And while yeah, there ambiance, its very specific and not just generalized. Sound also travels with impact and with great powerful motion when it does.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. Karl Urban has a very low, raspy voice in this, and it really captures every little piece of diction and keeps him plenty audible in this without it every sounding bumped up or not even with the rest of the characters.

Extras 

Dredd comes with the Blu-ray edition of the film and an UltraViolet digital copy of the film. All of the bonus features are the exact same as the previous Blu-ray release.

Mega-City Masters: 35 Years Of Judge Dredd (HD, 14:27) 

Day of Chaos: The Visual Effects of Dredd (HD, 15:21) 

Dredd Featurette (HD, 1:53) 

Dredd’s Gear (HD, 2:31) 

The 3rd Dimension (HD, 2:00)

Welcome To Peachtrees (HD, 2:33)

Dredd Motion Comic Prequel (HD, 2:57)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:30)

Summary 

Dredd remains a fun little, low-key R-rated comic book film.  Its fans will be happy that the 4K Ultra-HD presentation is WELL worth the upgrade. The video is really popping and outstanding and I found the Atmos track to be pretty unreal. The extras remain intact, but nothing new is provided. But, with 4K, you’re pretty much in it for what the film looks and sounds like, and this one is worthy.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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