Top 5 Dredd Anti-One-Liners
By Bret Dorman
(As always, Spoilers! apply to the following movie in discussion.)
In a recent interview with Collider, Karl Urban dropped a pretty big quote in regards to a Dredd sequel, saying “its not off the agenda.”I remember a time when I was not a Dredd-head. I was perfectly happy worshiping The Punisher as my tough-as-nails comic hero. I watched the Stallone version, Judge Dredd, just to have it under my belt going into the new one. Yes the Stallone version is silly, but it works fine. Knowing the new one was different in tone, I braced myself for a good time.
Little did I know I was about to get punched in the face and kneed in the gut over and over and over and over and over and over again by Karl Urban’s Dredd portrayal. He nails everything about Dredd that I love, but I say that having never read the comic. I’ve since browsed some artwork and read his wikipedia page, but Dredd is the movie action fans needed to reset the genre and show that nice, tight scripts with well realized worlds shot through a stylish eye were always better than hackneyed buddy cop quippy jokes and action shot through close ups disguised in fast editing.
One of the things I love about Dredd, the character, is how committed he is to stopping violence. He’s not interested in being friends with anyone or coming up with creative one-liners after brutally murdering someone who is a complete and total scumbag. No. Instead, Dredd is a man of simplicity. He may be sharp with his aim, but he’s blunt with his words. Unlike the cheesy one-liners of the characters of Stallone, Willis, Snipes, or even The Action God Himself, Arnold Schwarzengger; Dredd does not go for repeatability. In Dredd, Urban doesn’t act for the crowd, Judge Dredd reacts to the unglamorous world of violence and corruption. And he does so with some great anti-one-liners.
So buckle up, hold onto your seat belts, and get ready to go on a thrill ride of verbal mayhem, because Dredd wouldn’t put up with any of that shit I just said:
5) “I said, ‘Hot shot.'”As someone who has never been a Dredd follower, one thing I love Dredd for not doing is going the conventional “origin story” route. Not every comic book story needs to fully show the transformation from normal dude to ‘super hero.’ In addition, other than the initial voice over explaining the over all ‘Mega City One’ picture, the filmmakers don’t explain any of the tiny details. Even if I don’t know the first time watching the movie that the gun explodes if its DNA check doesn’t match, I will the second time. I’ve always been a fan of movies that work for fans of the movie. By assuming I already know, or can catch up easily, the movie encourages repeat viewings.
A good example is Judge Dredd’s opening ‘negotiation.’ It showcases both Dredd’s uncompromising attitude towards criminals (while not ALWAYS going for the kill, even if that’s what ends up happening) and the gun’s voice activated multi-ammo function. Right after he says the line, we hear the gun respond and Dredd wastes no more time. He gave the man his chance. This line is sort of ‘pun based,’ but unlike most typical one-liners it comes before the kill, not after. After, Dredd doesn’t celebrate or have any funny words for the dead. He’s just answers HQ with a very procedural response (“Affirmative.”) regarding the events that just happened. He doesn’t even say any words of comfort to the lady he just rescued and who is obviously very frightened but thankful. After all, he just killed a man, actually, three men. He may have saved this one lady, but there’s plenty of people who aren’t as lucky who Dredd couldn’t save. This is Dredd’s world. Constant violence.
4) “Well ya got one now.”We’ve all seen this story: Unassuming cop goes on daily routine only to be interrupted by evil maniac and MUST SAVE THE ENTIRE WORLD!!!
Or: Unassuming cop goes about life trying to solve personal problems but is confronted by evil maniacs and MUST PROTECT THE ONES HE LOVES THE MOST!!!
Or: Unassuming cop goes about his business but is disrupted by evil maniacs and GETS SUPER POWERS!!!
Dredd is none of those movies. Sure, the trailer alludes to Ma-Ma taking over the entire city, but the movie itself doesn’t include that aspect. Dredd is about an always ready cop who goes on a normal murder invesigation (which in Mega City One, murder is part of the ‘normal day’) and then goes on a normal drug bust and then goes on a normal drug raid taking on a very well prepared evil maniac as well as the chaotic, amateurish underlings she has control over. The only constant between all three events is that its JUST Judge Dredd and his temporary newbie partner. Whether his enemies’ numbers are 1 or 100, the thing that sets this movie apart from others is that none of it is out of Dredd’s control.
So when he’s set up with a line like “You know how often it is we get a Judge up in Peach Trees?” Dredd *could* go on about his duty, or honor, or how he’s going to bring justice to the bad people in Peach Trees and rid everyone of the problem. But no. Dredd lets the medic know this is just part of his day and that he should just consider himself lucky Peach Trees was part of the 6% the Judges *could* help.
(Couldn’t find the scene, but it’s used very effectively in the trailer.)
3) “It’s all the deep end.”Dredd is a nihilistic movie. The pointlessness of violence permeates through every scene. Death is treated rather mundanely. It is neither dramatic or shied away from. It just… is. Both sides of the law treat death like an option. Ma-Ma notes one person should have been killed in a drug bust, that it would have been more useful and beneficial for the group. Dredd notes to Anderson she might not want to get captured alive. Luckily, the movie avoids the “You and I, we’re not so different” speech from the badguy. The closest we get is “You’re a real piece of work Dredd. Like me.” Which is more an observation about their dedication to the job, rather than the ‘bluriness of the line of the law’ or some crap. For Dredd and the Hall of Justice, death is treated like a blip of sound in a constant stream of white noise. Everything is indistinguishable. There are no victims, just bad guys who must be brought to justice.
After a brief intro to Anderson and her mutant-y powers, The Chief Judge pleads with Dredd to show her the ropes. (Side note: If Anderson can read minds how did she fail her written tests? Did she have to take them in a mind-reading-proof room? I always like to think she was hoping if she failed she’d be released and might pursue a better way to make a difference, which as Dredd notes is “Admirable” <- another great anti-one-liner!) The Chief wants to team Anderson up with Dredd, who must be one of the toughest and hardest working Judges in Mega City One. She assumes by teaming the rookie up with him, she'll see what the job is *really* like. Urban's reading of the line implies that life isn't just tough for him, or even for Judges in general, but for everyone, all the time.
2) “Yeah…”From “Hasta la vista, baby” to “I don’t take requests” to “You’re fired”, there’s definitely an art to delivering one final ‘fuck you’ to the main bad guy at the end of a movie. If a dude’s trying to hijack your plane, you yell “Get off my plane!” Simple, right? At the end of Dredd, when Ma-Ma tries to circumvent the law, Dredd throws her out of a window, effectively canceling out her plans. This is a perfect opportunity for something like “Heads up!” or “Next stop: ground level.” One big final ‘fuck you.’
But no. Not Dredd. He doesn’t even say “yeah” like “Fuck Yeah! (I got you.)” He says it like “Yeah… that’s what I thought.” Only they drop the ‘that’s what I thought’ and just let Urban’s pure badassery speak volumes. And after the events of the day, you’d think Dredd might AT LEAST deliver the line with a smirk, but no again. Dredd remains ever-scowled, knowing he’ll just have to do it all over again soon.
1) “…”Ma-Ma gets a bunch of henchmen and three giant gatling guns. She massacres an entire floor to try and kill her judicial intruders. Dredd narrowly escapes. He contacts HQ and asks for backup (but given the firepower, you think he might stress the urgency. Not Dredd, he knows the HoJ is constantly backed up and stressing the urgency is a moot point). Dredd then goes to stalk down the people looking for his corpse. Ma-Ma looks on. Gunshots are heard. Ma-Ma leans forward in anticipation. Then Blam-O! Dredd takes her right hand man and launches him off a balcony right in front of her. This might be the perfect opportunity for Dredd to make a speech along the lines of “Your attacks are pointless. Surrender now before anyone gets hurt” or even “Yeah! Come and get me! If you can!!!”
But actions speak louder than words.
The way this is shot is great filmmaking. Once Dredd reenters Peach Trees, we see him in dark silhouette form as he follows his prey. The gunshots are heard, but not seen. Even though we know its him, as Dredd throws the guy off the balcony, we don’t get a clear glimpse of his badge or face. No close up of his scowl. No reflection through his visor like the incendiary scene to come later. Not a word is spoken on his part. Not even a shot to define or highlight Dredd. Just a shadow-y figure marching back into the smokey aftermath. Here, Dredd embodies all of the Judges out there. He personifies justice. And justice is an idea, one that can’t be trapped, gunned down, and destroyed. Here Dredd becomes more than just a man. He becomes a force, one that doesn’t budge for anything. You try to push him and he pushes back harder.
(This scene is why Dredd was my favorite of 2012.)
Dredd does have its moments of more courtroom based one-liners. And Dredd’s “I Am The Law” speech in Dredd is legitimately badass, as opposed to the more silly and over the top version in Judge Dredd (and of course, the courtroom call back). Dredd came out in a year where everyone was quoting The Avengers (Hulk IS badass) or The Dark Knight Rises (Bane IS badass). Battleship and Men in Black 3 tried to go for the McClane-eque sarcasm and Skyfall and The Amazing Spider-Man (at least in regards to Spidey’s quippy-ness) had to show them how to get it done. All of these movie went for the tried and true approach of having likable characters in fun adventures fight their way out and reward the audience for going on that journey with a well placed one-liner. While I do love it (see: tried and true), only Dredd was daring enough to make us suffer (in a good way) through violence, gore, and carnage, then punish us with the oft underused anti-one-liner.
What was your favorite line from Dredd, anti-one-liner or not?
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