Back in 2011 an Indonesian movie called The Raid: Redemption came out. It was about some bad-ass cops who bust into a crime-lord's super secure apartment building, get trapped with the scum and villainy inside, and then have to fight tooth and nail to get out alive amid the ultra-violence that takes place in the hellhole that's totally rented out to gangs, drug dealers, and drug manufacturers.
Then in 2012 the movie Dredd came out. It was a Judge Dredd reboot wherein the good Judge and his new partner bust into a crime-lord's super secure apartment building, get trapped with the super scum and villainy inside, and then have to fight tooth and nail to get out alive amid the ultra-ultra violence that takes place in the hellhole that's filled with gangs, drug dealers, and drug manufacturers.
It seems pretty cut and dry that one flick was totally ripped off by the other... Only in an M. Knight Shammylammywow twist I must point out that Dredd was written and in pre-production years before the Indonesians who put together The Raid even came up with the idea to make their own movie. Yeah, how 'bout THAT shit. Crazy, huh?
Beyond the basic plot similarities I just covered (for those of you not paying attention I pretty much just cut and pasted the first paragraph into the second) there are major plot points and action sequences that play out almost beat for beat in both flicks. Yeah, it's beyond obvious that The Raid ripped off Dredd, but who cares? I'm not here to bust balls over who copied who (even though The Raid totally fucking ripped off Dredd after I'm guessing its script leaked long before it started filming). The main question is are either of these movies any goddamn good? That, my friends, is why we are here tonight. So let's start off with....
The Raid: Redemption
So a more full synopsis goes like this: Rookie bad-ass police officer Rama is off to crime lord Tama Riyad's super secure shit-hole apartment building stronghold, along with a couple dozen or so other cops who all know Muy Thai kick boxing and are all super well-trained in knife fighting and every kind of gun known to man. They're led in their covert attack on the fortress of crime by some old fart who's trying to prove himself to his superiors, but they're soon majorly fucked when the alarm goes off after they only make it to the 5th floor of Riyad's HQ. They're trapped like rats in this crappy tenement surrounded by maniacs with unlimited knives, machetes, and guns, and they find they have to put their trust in some people they don't like in order to survive and allow Rama to get home to his pregnant wife.
The whole feel of the movie is fairly intense the whole way through. The fights are some of the most brutal, bloody, and fucking amazingly well choreographed one-on-one (and sometimes 7-on-one) battles I have ever witnessed, but after two on screen matches they start to blend together and become trite. There are serious pacing issues in this thing. Yeah, it's quite cool to see a frenetic knife fight as the camera pulls back and takes the whole thing in without 60 1-second cuts for a one minute melee, but there came a point when I actually became bored with the non-stop skirmishes. It became too much. 100 minutes of almost constant fisticuffs and shooting and slicing and soon you're just watching the same shit over and over again. Not to mention that the director doesn't seem to know how to handle the parts of this flick that DON'T have any action or explosions in them. I became bored with this movie on at least 4 occasions — 2 of which were brawling scenes that went on for waaaay too long and kept repeating punches, kicks, and throws. One should never EVER get bored during an action movie. Especially one with such amazing stunts and scuffles as this!
Another reason I got bored with The Raid is that I didn't give two shits about any of the characters. Hell, I didn't even give ONE shit. Everybody is a one-dimensional caricature with no development beyond their initial simple cookie-cutter facade. There's the noble rookie who just wants to get home to his wife; the psycho henchman who just likes to kill with his bare hands; the noble leader who sacrifices himself for the guy who doesn't deserve it because it was in the script; the cocky, evil mastermind who knows all; the befuddled old loser trying to prove himself to whomever; and the bad guy who's not really so bad and related to the good guy rookie. That's it. That's all we know about any of these fups. There's no drama, no question about what they'll do or say in a certain situation — you know. You always know, and they're all the same in the end. Nobody grows or learns anything... Well, the old fucker learns that nobody likes him, but I think he truly knew that from the start.
Oh, and lest we forget the blood. As I said before, The Raid is brutal as fuck. So many broken bones, slices, bullets, smashed noses, explosions, and gallons of blood splashing everywhere. There was so much to root for in this movie, but the execution of it just felt like it was in the wrong director's hands. Which brings us to...
Dredd the movie is the much-needed reboot of the kick-ass comic book tale of Judge Dredd (and his wacky, hyper-savage adventures in law enforcement in Mega-City One) after Sylvester Stallone made a mockery of the titular character in his pretty terrible 1995 movie also known as Judge Dredd. Everything that Stallone's flick (and The Raid) got wrong, Dredd did oh-so-right.
For those who don't know, the world of Judge Dredd goes like this: It's the future and the world sucks. Most of the planet is an irradiated wasteland, but there are some uber-sized city-states that have survived destruction and (kind of) thrived. Mega-City One lies on the East Coast of what was once the United States and houses around 800 million poor souls just trying to get by. Unfortunately something like 20,000 major crimes are committed each day in M-C1, and it's up to the Judges (bad-ass monkey fuckers who act as cops, juries, and, when needed, executioners) to keep the peace... They do the best they can, which is usually lethally pretty dang good.
The most famous tough mother fucker to wear the Judge's helmet is Dredd. It just so happens on this day he's breaking in a potential new Judge who is armed with some powerful mutant psychic powers. Dredd and newbie Anderson respond to a call about a dead bunch of druggies in a 200-story tall ginormous apartment complex in the heart of one of the shittiest slum neighborhoods in M-C1. Upon investigating they stumble onto crime lord Ma-Ma's base of operations for producing the newest drug to fuck up the already fucked up population, Slo-Mo, and they get locked in the apartment tower by Ma-Ma to keep them from screwing up the good thing she has going. The drug lordette then puts a hit out on the two judges (the tower is filled to the gills with Ma-Ma's highly armed men) who then must climb all the way to the top of the skyscraper on foot in order to stop the madness on their own. Bullets and a huge body count then ensues.
Dredd was fun the whole way through. I loved the horrible world that it took place in, I love the actors in their roles (hell, even the chick who played Cassandra the psychic [get it?] grew on me), and I love just how gritty and disturbing the whole movie felt. Most of all I loved that Dredd NEVER took off his fucking helmet. God I hope the same people get to make a sequel!
Which is better, The Raid or Dredd?
Okay, it's judgement time.
Even though Dredd was made for a relatively small budget for a futuristic sci-fi film today, it looks amazing. The SFX (including giant Gatling guns, unfathomably tall scummy towers, and the effects of Slo-Mo on the human body [especially that final swan dive]) are pretty goddamn glorious most of the time, and I was totally pulled into this world in ways that The Raid lost me. For example: The Raid turned into a "Who will be in the next fight?! Oh! It's that guy and 4 faceless minions! FIGHT ON!... Now, who will be in the the next drawn out kick boxing fight?! Oh! It's the Captain and the Mad Dog! FIGHT ON!...." It's just like watching someone else play Mortal Kombat while you watch. Whereas Dredd is primarily concerned with the story and the characters first, and so YOU become concerned with Dredd and Anderson as they try to make it out of Ma-Ma's castle alive.
The Raid looks pretty cheap, but I honestly don't hold that against it — it is a remarkable movie made for its very tiny price tag. What I DO hold against it is the "acting" (Oh my gaaaawwwwwd! The people in this thing just cannot emote to save their fucking lives!) and the lack of any driving force behind its basic plot. It's like The Raid just doesn't even want to TRY. Like it's saying "Fuck it, we got bloody fights... That's enough, right?" Yeah, the fights are impressive, but so are the fights in Drunken Master II, Rumble in the Bronx, and IP Man... But I hold the brawls in those movies on a much higher pedestal because each fight in them is so different and uses its environment to its own advantage. In The Raid all the fights take place in empty rooms and they all look and feel identical. It's just shallow and pedantic.
Yes, Dredd is filled with violence and blood and a few fist fights, true, but they never drag on, and you therefore don't get immune to the blasts of crimson when it sprays a wall behind an exploding criminal's head. Each action scene has its own personality, and you can remember them all separately. The Raid just seemed to try and one-up itself constantly, minute by minute, making you numb to the experience. Those amazingly choreographed fights just lost my attention in the end. The stakes never got higher, but the battles JUST GOT LONGER. Christ, the final fight between rookie Rama and his brother against the Mad Dog just went on for fucking ages, and all they did was just the same moves that were pulled during every other fight leading up to it! Everybody took such godawful punishment, but they never really seemed to feel it. They were all kneed in the fucking face something like 5 times each, but they'd immediately jump up and continue punching away at full blast. If Dredd got shot it totally slowed him the fuck down and raised the tension.
Now, in my opinion, Dredd is superior to The Raid in every way. You already knew it would blow Stallone's Judge Dredd out of the water (mostly because Dredd's Dredd never takes off his helmet, he never DOESN'T act like Dredd ever, and there's no Rob Schneidder in this movie at all... I don't even know if that's how you spell Rob Schneidder's name, and I don't care enough to look it up), but I must be clear that between the two almost identical scripts that I'm talking about today, Dredd rules. It is an actual MOVIE with plot and characters and drama. The Raid is just an hour and a half fight scene that quickly starts to bore you within thirty minutes of turning it on.
I saw Dredd, but I never did see The Raid, but I'll say that The Raid was better just because it'll piss off the Rossman.
Both these movies were fucking amazing! I loved the punching and kicking and shooting going on in the Raid, but Dredd did have a nice political and law enforcement-based satire going on in it that added levels of awesomeness to its story. And Judge-to-be Anderson was pretty damn hot. Hell, so was Ma-Ma. And honestly, so was Dredd.