Friday, September 21, 2012
There's something inherently enticing about the concept of Judge Dredd. The flagship character in UK Creator breeding ground 2000AD, Dredd is one of the originators of the idea that shoot first, don't even bother to ask questions later heroes could be at the forefront of the comic book world. A character that should never be empathized with, Dredd is the very essence of the last line of defence when humanity eventually swallows itself, with the judges ruling over Mega City One like facist dictators whilst its denizens live in, at best, squalor. In its commercial and creative zenith, 2000AD and Judge Dredd in particular resonated with a constantly scared of the future readership that lived in the shadow of high employment, war, and an economy on its last legs. (Nothing like nowadays then.) If there is one positive to take away from the current worrying situation we find ourselves in it is that quite often, the greatest creativity comes out of times of depression and crisis, and conveniently for the holders to the film rights of Judge Dredd, also a time when the stink of the Sylvester Stallone train wreck has finally been washed off. Now, more than any other time, is perfect for a Judge Dredd reboot and this Friday Dredd 3D will be released internationally. Because the UK is the bees knees, this reviewer has seen it. Is it any good? Find out after the jump.
Directed by Pete Travis
Written by Alex Garland
Starring Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Cersei Lannister and Avon Barksdale
(Possible spoilery stuff will be included in this review)
Being partly self funded gave the makers of Dredd a freedom that many modern films can ill afford and in doing so gave Dredd 3D the opportunity to become the R rated film it deserved to be, an opportunity that would never have been available under the purview of a major studio. And believe me when I say this film deserves to be R rated. Within the ninety five minute running time there is a complete symphony of violence on display with a body count that must have ranked in the hundreds, with all getting killed in increasingly inventive and gruesome ways. Pete Travis and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle deserve praise for making sure all the action on display never looks too rushed or complicated, even with all the violence on display.
Karl Urban is fantastic as the title character, particularly in his god given talent of having a chin that looks exactly like it was drawn by Carlos Ezquerra himself, although to be honest he doesn't have to exert his acting skills. Cold, emotionless and at times robotic, fans of the 2000AD comics will know that this is the perfect way to play Judge Dredd and it is a testament to Urban's ego, more than even Garland's characterization of Dredd, that it works so well. With Urban has the dishing out of justice in check, it is the other actors that have to carry the lions share of the actual acting and they all do so in a fun and convincing fashion. Olivia Thirlby is great as the wide eyed rookie Anderson and has enough likability about her to pull off being the films emotional centre without actually being a crutch to the story. Wood Harris is, as always, a treat to watch on the screen and is suitably creepy as Kay, Ma-Ma's main henchman, being able to tread the line between man with no choice in life and absolute remorseless scumbag easily and often. But the main star of the show is Lena Headey as crime boss and ruler of Peach Trees tower block Ma-Ma. Even in what is essentially a meat and potatoes action film, Headey shows her talents playing Ma-Ma with a drug addled stare, completely uncaring for human life and full of hate.
Verdict - Watch It
Less a faithful complete adaptation and more an transplant of tried and tested action movie tropes into the Judge Dredd universe, Dredd 3D is nevertheless high octane, exciting, and well paced with a great cast to boot. Alex Garland script is refreshingly spare, lacking the unnecessary padding found in modern Hollywood scripts and Pete Travis, alongside the top notch cinematography from Anthony Dod Mantle, deliver a lean and violent tale that tells a satisfying story whilst leaving room for (hopefully) a sequel. A callback to the great high concept action films of a bygone era, Dredd is, dare I say it, the one must watch comic book film of the year.