Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dredd - when all you have is justice

DREDD movie poster 3 imageJudge Dredd has always been one of those comic strips I have unaccountably loved reading. Always interesting, often quirky, sometimes horrible. As a fan of dystopian future-fiction (1984, The Handmaid's Tale, Blade Runner, and to a lesser extent, Equilibrium), Dredd has always been the comic strip that fed my pessimism about the way the world is heading.

The film is excellent. Well-made, if a bit gory and gruesome in parts. But you'd expect that. And although it is gory, there's a realism to it. This is a world where bullets rip people apart, a bit like, er, our world, and not like the cartoonesque attitude to gunshot wounds you usually see in Hollywood movies. So, it worked.

Sets were good. Believable. Story was simple and effective. Actors were well-chosen. Not much to complain about. Although given its 18 certificate and the amount of blood spraying around at times, not for the faint-hearted.

And, although I couldn't really recommend it to everyone, I do think it has an important message. Dredd is a judge. He is the law (that's his catchphrase). He knows every sentence for every crime and he passes them without equivocation. If it's a capital crime then he executes people on the spot.

Dredd, the film, like Dredd the character, takes no prisoners. It is a grim - in the proper sense of the word -story. It's bleak because it's a story about justice, but there is no mercy, no grace, and no hope.

Whatever the faults and failings of our legal system, and there are many, there is a sense that there is hope. Prisons are meant to be correctional facilities, not just punishment camps. There is some small element of mercy - no crimes in this country carry the death sentence; no matter how hideous the crime.

From a religious perspective, justice without grace is harsh and ugly and totally without hope. I know that people, particularly those of a Calvinist persuasion, want to emphasise the wrath of God as fueled by 'justice', but what kind of world would a wrathful God create, ultimately. Maybe a dystopian one, possibly even a bit, or a lot, like this one. But it would be a place without hope.

I sometimes think the way people talk about God they envision God as a Judge Dredd type figure, dispensing a harsh and almost cruel form of justice. Dredd the film is a reminder of what the Kingdom of Heaven could be like if there is no mercy and no grace in your theology. It's not a vision any sane person would want to share.

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