Director: Pete Travis
Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thibley, Lena Hedley, Wood Harris, Rakie Ayola.
Written by: Alex Garland, (based on the characters created by) Carlos Ezquella and John Wagner.
Running Time: 95 mins
Release date: 7th September 2012
I feel really sorry for the makers of Dredd. First they decide to take on one of the biggest cult comic book characters that was almost so badly treated in its first outing in 1995, when Sylvester Stallone couldn’t keep his helmet on, Rob Schneider was embarrassingly awful as a comic stooge and angered fans so much, they would have ripped Stallone limb from limb given the chance. So the new Dredd had everything going for it. A writer who can write, a star who didn’t have an ego so will keep his helmet on and story that fans of the 2000AD comic strip will love…and then The Raid came along. They must have been crying in their sleep when they saw that ground-breaking actioner. You will understand later.
Mega City One is a futuristic crime zone in which the police are now the law and will enforce justice on the spot. One such law-man is Judge Dredd, a heavily armed, emotionless cop who will go into any situation without fear. Given a rookie, Anderson, to see how she does in the field, the two judges head to a 200 floored tower block to investigate a triple homicide. Soon they realise that they are trapped in the confines of the building by Ma-Ma, a woman who leads a gang that rule the block and she wants the judges dead so she can continue her illegal drug operation, a narcotic called Slo-Mo, in which the taker experiences time at a slower pace.
This is a massive improvement to the 1995 mess. British director Pete Travis and writer Alex Garland obviously love the character and give him the respect that is due. The film also looks terrific, with the scenes when people take the Slo-Mo being the most effective. It has some nice twists and turns and is very, very violent. We get bullets exploding through faces, heads being blown up and bodies splattered from dropping from a great height. It doesn’t hold back, hence it’s 18 certificate.
The casting is also good. Karl Urban, probably better known as Bones in the new Star Trek film(s) gets Dredd down to a tee. A cold-hearted, solid force of nature with a mean collection of snarls and Urban handles the limitations from under a helmet without any trouble. Olivia Thirlby, as the rookie Anderson, is a perfect foil to Dredd, with her unusual look for a mutant (she has strong psychic abilities) she also manages to hold her own. It’s also nice to see Lena Hedley getting to play a real baddie, a vicious, manipulative Ma-Ma, scar and all.
So what is wrong with the film? As I said, The Raid. The Raid was set in a tower block under siege, as a drug baron wants the cops who have entered it killed. It is an identical storyline. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if The Raid was a mediocre film but as you might know by now, it’s one of the best of 2012, a genre-changing epic that took the action film and shook it to the core.
So watching Dredd and Anderson battling their way up the building, shooting everything in sight, is a little pedestrian. The characters aren’t as involving as in The Raid so we just get an action flick without any real character development. So we don’t feel get to emote as much, although we aren’t expected to with Dredd himself.
If The Raid didn’t exist, this could have been an epic action film with memories of how they did it in the 80s, instead it’s a mild distraction that at least is a mass improvement on the first Dredd film and, who knows? Maybe this is the start of something much, much better.
On another down note, the 3D is utterly pointless and really doesn’t work, in fact spoiling the Slo-Mo sequences. The really sad thing is there doesn’t seem to be many (if any 2D version). Come on, people! Please let us have a choice.