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Dredd: Echoes of the Man with No Name

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    Vili Maunula

    A couple of days ago, I rewatched Dredd, a 2012 scifi action film that I like more than I perhaps should. Based on the Judge Dredd comics, the film is a violent and action packed hour and half overflowing with macho testosterone, a combination not usually at the top of my list.

    I think that one reason why I like Dredd as much as I do has to do with the no-nonsense main character, who reminds me of the hero in Yojimbo, as well as his Leone/Eastwood permutations and the main character in Django.

    I have only read a couple of Judge Dredd collections some 20 years ago, so I’m not really familiar with the comics, and my memory of the subpar 1995 film with Sylvester Stallone is also blissfully hazy. So, I cannot really speak of the Dredd universe with any sort of experience or knowledge. But the titular character in the new Dredd film is definitely an anti-hero of the same or at least similar type as those found in Yojimbo, Django or many of Clint Eastwood’s characters. Dredd is ruthless when it comes to following what he perceives as law and order, and I think his actions do echo a world view bordering on fascism.

    And while he does have a name, Dredd is nevertheless a Man with No Name. We never learn anything personal about him, as the human element of the story is solely carried by his sidekick, the rookie Anderson. Dredd’s anonymity is further cemented by his helmet, which throughout the film obscures his face, never allowing us to see more than his usually grimacing mouth and therefore crucially blocking access to his eyes, the poetic windows to one’s soul and persona. In contrast, Anderson for the most part wears no helmet and we actually literally get to travel into her head a number of times.

    The film makes me think of another story that we have discussed here recently, that of Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta which, in its comic book form, explores fascism and anarchy through a similarly masked hero-villain. And just like V, Judge Dredd is a questionable hero, easy to like and cheer for but whose actions are nevertheless sometimes difficult to approve of.

    I don’t really have much of a point to make here, but I thought anyone interested in the “Man with No Name” mystique should take a look, or if you already have, I’d love to hear your comments.

    It is disappointing that the film didn’t perform that well commercially. I would have loved to see a sequel or two and the world opened up more. They seem to have been talking about comic book and/or tv series sequels, but somehow I feel that the reason the story worked as well as it did was thanks to its 95 minute film format, and any other medium would make it quite a different experience. Not necessarily worse, but different.

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