Friday, 7 September 2012

No.60 - Dredd (3D)

The Definite Article Movie Blog gets dusted off for one last dance, to cast its gaze over ‘Dredd’. OK it doesn’t have a ‘The’ but there’s not much more definite than Dredd, and frankly unlike the great man we feel rules are there to be broken.

Most of the reviews you read of ‘Dredd’ will offer comparisons to the 1995 shambles ‘Judge Dredd’ starring Sylvester Stallone. This took a couple of core ideas from the comic hero and added some flying motorbikes, kissing and, lamentably, Rob Schneider. The new Dredd is so far removed from the first attempt that, apart from the helmet, you wouldn’t recognise it. ‘Dredd’ 2012 is a visceral, hardboiled thriller where the wise cracks are dead pan and the violence bone crunchingly realistic.

The film opens with Judge Dredd on patrol, in pursuit of some drugged up perps who are creating carnage on the roads. Any idea of comic book violence is quickly dispensed as a pedestrian and then the perps are dispatched in eye watering fashion. Make no mistake, the ‘18’ certificate is justified and the splatter is all the worse for being in eye-popping 3D.

The film proper opens as Dredd is summoned to a meeting with the Chief Judge and assigned a rookie to assess. The rookie, Anderson, has mutant psychic abilities and is viewed as a potential asset to the struggling department, but has fallen short of the Academy of Law’s pass standard. Dredd is charged with assessing the rookie’s capabilities and is immediately unimpressed with his charge’s potential. He rhymes off the problems the city faces with the depleted Judge force only capable of handling 6% of reported crimes.

Given a free hand to chose their first call Anderson picks a triple homicide at the Peach Trees Block - Huge mistake! This block is the domain of Ma-Ma, the crime boss in charge of ‘Slo-Mo’, a new drug sweeping the city that lets the user experience reality at 1% of real time. The Judges arrive to assess the crime scene but Ma-Ma is ahead of the game and with the help of a cyber-eyed hacker locks down the building and tasks her addicted inhabitants with the job of dispatching the law enforcers.

With no back up available Dredd and Anderson have to stay alive and try to knock the evil drug lord from her perch at the top of the block - 200 floors away. Can they survive the battle against the criminals and other forces sent against them? Will the rookie save the day and will Dredd’s helmet stay untouched for the duration?

As a near life long fan of 2000ad and Judge Dredd the development of this film has been high on my anticipation last for nigh on two years, and I’m amazed to say that it managed to live up to my expectations.

Firstly, Karl Urban is excellent as Dredd. His voice is pretty much how I’ve imagined Dredd to sound for 25 years and his lip curls and jaw acting are fantastic. His delivery is on the right side of caricature and although he doesn’t engage us with much empathy we’re never in doubt that he is a devoted and single minded servant of the law. His character arc isn’t great but frankly I wouldn’t want him to learn about himself in the course of the film - his resolve is unbreakable, just how it should be.

The rookie Anderson was played by Olivia Thirlby and again, she was excellent. Many fans, myself included, feel Anderson is a bit touchy feely but here her vulnerabilities added to the character and in truth it’s really her film by way of character development. Her building of confidence as the film progresses is expertly judged and believable.

Of the three main characters, the villain, Ma-Ma is the weakest. I wasn’t convinced that she had the drive or charisma to lead legions of cannon fodder gangsters and her powers were limited to looking a bit thoughtful. Given the down to earth reality of the film this wasn’t a major problem, but a memorable and frightening bad guy would have made for a better spectacle overall.

Much as been said of the contemporary look of this sci-fi thriller and it’s true that some of the vehicles look more 1990 than 2090. There is however plenty of good tech such as Dredd’s wrist com and weaponry, and the new, set against the old, does highlight the divisions in the future society.

The film runs a lean 96 minutes and although I spent too long looking for the in-jokes and references I didn’t feel it flagged at all. I did have some minor quibbles with the appearance of bent Judges which harked back to the Stallone film and undermined the Justice Department as an elite force, but these were negligible.

On balance though, the film is a triumph with amazing 3D effects and a body count to well justify the ‘18’ certificate. Not for the squeamish or art house lovers but ‘Dredd’ is pure escapist enjoyment that will see repeat viewings from me and hopefully many others.

THE Tag Line : Dreddfully Good 89%

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