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Star - Karl Urban
Genre - Comic Book
Run Time - 95 minutes
Certificate - R18
Country - GBR/South Africa
Blockbuster Rental- £1.49 per night
Amazon -£5.00 DVD (£6.00 Blue Ray)
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So, after Sylvester Stallone totally flucked up the Judge Dredd franchise with his disastrous effort back in the day, a time when the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Alec Baldwin were alos entrusted to star in a comic book movie, the genre that is Hollywood's most lucrative today may have been killed stone dead back in the early 90s because of. Stallone made the fatal mistake of taking his helmet off as Dredd and then mumbled and grunted all the way though the rest of the film with it back on again. Thankfully, the more macho and sinister Karl Urban has been handed that same helmet, bike and judge's badge for the reboot and we are back on track.
The original script for the Judge Dredd film was written back in the early 1980s but was chopped and changed so much it became the first Robocop film and so 'Dredd' was shelved, until Sly found that dusty copy and insisted on doing it. But with Alex Garland writing the screenplay here and competent action director Pete Travis behind the camera and Urban doing his best Dirty Harry impression, all is now well and an enjoyable and graphic comic book action movie duly delivered here. Admittedly it's exactly the same plot as the superior Gareth Evans subtitled classic The Raid but still worth 90minutes of your time if you like the comic book action stuff, spectacular in 3D for the cinema release by all-accounts.
Karl Urban ... Judge Dredd
Jason Cope ... Zwirner
Olivia Thirlby ... Anderson
Rakie Ayola ... Chief Judge
Lena Headey ... Ma-Ma
Tamer Burjaq ... Ma-Ma Bodyguard
Warrick Grier ... Caleb
Wood Harris ... Kay
The United States, in the near future, is a dystopian wasteland known as the 'Cursed Earth', most of the planet irradiated from the Great War. On the east coast lies Mega-City One, a violent metropolis teaming with 800 million residents and 17,000 crimes reported daily, a special breed of cops that are judge, jury and executioner patrolling the streets and handing out on the spot justice, Dredd (Urban) the most feared. The police only have enough resources to convict 5% of those offences and so don't mess around.
Today is the day when Dredd takes rookie Private Andersen (Olivia Thirlby) on to those violent streets to see if she can earn the fabled Judge Shield. A powerful psychic, she failed the aptitude tests so Dredd will no doubt fail her today, one-in-five rookie judges dead by week one. And there's work to do in Mega city as an addictive new drug called "Slo-Mo" has hit the streets and tower blocks, which slows the user's perception of time down to just 1% of normal. Slo-Mo is being pumped on to those streets by gang leader Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), who rules in Peach Trees, a 200 storey slum block that supports 99% unemployment rates, plenty of takers for her produce, her gang hurling addicts off the top floor who don't pay on time.
In a drug den bust, Dredd and Andersen capture a man called Kay (Wood Harris), a key member of Ma Ma's gang, a man who could squeal if they get him back to the police station. But Ma-Ma wants him dead because of that and locks down the building, trapping Dredd and Andersen inside with all the residents. On the PA she announces that she wants the judge's dead and a 500 credit bounty for their heads. If the residents don't comply then the iron shutters stay down and retribution will be taken.
Super cop Dredd, of course, carries out the law, come what may, and so the brutal battle against Ma-Ma and her thugs begins. Back up is not likely to come quickly and so his rookie better be up to it, outgunned and trapped half-way up the building as Ma-Ma's full armory is indiscriminately unleashed. Now the only way out is up and to defeat Ma-Ma and her drugged up army of hired guns, based in the Penthouse suit.
As I say if you have seen The Raid you have seen this but don't let that put you off - The Raid or Dredd. This is great fun and Urban's monosyllabic Dredd ten times better than Stallone. He keeps that helmet on as the body count rises and the beautiful smile that is American actress Olivia Thirlby surprisingly good in her fist action role.
The film is suitably shot in ultraviolent South Africa with many scenes set in Joburg, a dystopian hell already. It's deliberate and dumb when it comes to the script and only about the death and destruction here, shamelessly so, what graphic novels are supposed to be about. The only brains on show are quickly splattered all over the floor.
It's nicely paced and packed with good special effects for that 3D cinema experience and has a really good comic book look and feel to it, foreboding and loyal to the original comic books texture. But Stallone had done so much damage to it (the way Affleck did to Daredevil) and so it tanked, doing just $45 million back from its $40 million budget.
The mostly British cast and money did a great job and the South African locations bringing a fresh edge to the action, the effects guys and girls refreshingly not getting carried away with the CGI here, the way the excellent District 9 didn't out there. It's just a really enjoyable comic book tear up and no complaints for Urban to take it on and make the expected trilogy, film two already in production.
Imdb.com - 7.0/10.0 (130,324 votes)
Metacrtic.com - 59% critic's approval
Rottentomatos.com - 78% critic's approval
The Guardian -'If Hollywood is going to be indicted for making mindlessly violent action films, let them at least be as good as this one'.
Seattle times -'This, finally, is the Dredd movie comic book readers have been anticipating'.
The Standard -'Dredd is like a gun - not everyone likes them and they're only good for one thing, but they do that one thing really, really well'.
ABC Radio -'Tonally one-note, and that note is grim, nihilistic, super-stylized, violent and humorless. But it's a spectacular technical feat, hugely loyal to its source ... an extremely expensive arthouse action flick for the die-hard crowd'.
New Atlantic.com - 'The stunningly violent Dredd 3D strips out pretense of satire, a crucial element of the British comic.
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Dredd is a 2012 action film based on the comic book character Judge Dredd created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra in the comic anthology 2000AD. It is directed by Pete Travis and stars Karl Urban and Olivia Thirlby and runs for 95 minutes.
I've recently been getting really into films based on comic strips and have been watching them almost exclusively for the past few months and although this one was a little different to things like the Marvel Films, I thought I might still enjoy it.
Within 10 minutes I realised I was wrong and actually stopped watching. Later that evening, however, I got really bored and the only thing to do was to finish this film. Unfortunately, even though I did manage to finish it, I can't say I really enjoyed it. Here's what I thought...
The film is set in the future where America has become a desolate waste-land (I think due to radiation, but it wasn't explained too well) and all that's left is one 'Mega-City' called Mega City One spanning from Boston to Washington D.C with a population of 800 million people.
In this City the law enforcers are known as 'Judges' and they have absolute power - they are 'judge, jury and executioner' and have a duty to kill anyone on the spot who commits a crime heinous enough. Judge Dredd is one of the most feared Judges and is put in charge of assessing the suitability of newest recruit, orphan Cassandra Anderson who has a very special 'mutation' of being able to read people's minds.
Their first job as a duo is to check out a triple homicide at a tower block famous for being controlled by crime-lord (and very violent, creepy lady) Ma-Ma. This tower block is the centre of a new drug epidemic that's taking over the city. The drug is called 'Slo-Mo' and its users experience life at a fraction of normal speed.
The duo make an arrest which angers Ma-Ma and she will do anything to have them brought to her for revenge.
=Film and Direction=
So far, so good. But the film and direction is where this film really let me down. The plot could have been slightly better, but I think if everything else had been done well the film could have been half-decent.
First of all there was so much gore it was just unpleasant. I thought this was a sci-fi action film and when the gore first made an appearance I was a bit shocked - I felt it didn't really have a place in a comic-book film and should not have been the main focus. Everything aside, they were quite good special effects and it didn't look like tomato ketchup!
Secondly, there was too much time spent in shoot-offs and not enough time spent focussing on the characters. I wanted to know more about them and why they were there, but every aspect of anyone's personality was skimmed over rather than focussed on. They had potential, especially with Anderson, to really evoke emotion from the viewers, but this potential was sadly lost on an hour and a half of non-stop shooting.
Thirdly, the drug 'Slo-Mo' seems to be a large part of the story, but doesn't really have much relevance. I feel this could be concentrated on more and worked into the story a bit better so it doesn't seem so...random. If you're going to invent a drug at least make it interesting otherwise you might as well use one of the drugs that is already plaguing cities across the world - I think the effects of the drug could be a little more shocking because the endemic doesn't make me worried for the sake of the city!
Lighting and camera work was all fine - nothing special, but nothing to complain about. I watched it yesterday and can't even remember hearing music - it certainly didn't leave a lasting impression on me!
Karl Urban (Dredd) played one of my all time favourite movie characters - Eomer from Lord of the Rings and he was far better in that than in this. I felt Dredd was far too robotic and de-humanised and although this is part of his law enforcer character, I think it went far too far in that direction and he was unbelievable as a human being. I honestly did not care if he lived or died because his character didn't appeal to my human nature in any way - he had no character in fact.
Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) played a more convincing character. I did warm to her, but still not as much as I normally would with the heroine of a film. I think this was more of a scripting issue rather than an acting issue - she just didn't have a chance to show me why I should care about her.
Ma-Ma (Lena Heady) was spot on. Her performance was fantastic and I believed every second of it. It's unusual to have a petite female crime-lord in films like this and it made a refreshing change, especially considering she played the part perfectly. She genuinely creeped me out, but I also had some compassion for her - a feeling that she's just been messed up by somebody rather than born this way.
The rest of the cast were all perfectly OK, although nobody stood out to me particularly.
The DVD is currently priced at £5 on Amazon - I wouldn't really recommend buying the DVD because I don't think the film has any replay ability - watch out for it on the TV and it might be worth an hour and a half of your time, but don't spend your money on it.
I'm going to give this 2 stars. I didn't really find it interesting and it was far too gory. Like I say it might be worth a watch, but don't go out hunting for it. This is certainly not what I expected from the Dredd franchise and didn't live up to my expectations.
Dredd is a roller-coaster of action and violence with no letup, for lovers of the cheesy 90's classic staring Sylvester Stallone you'll be forgiven for finding yourself a long way from home as blood flows, brains spill and heads burst into flames in this gory adaptation of the cult comic strip series.
The plot remains disappointingly simple, Dredd, responding to gang murder, becomes trapped within a 200 story tower block alongside psychic trainee Judge Cassandra. The duo quickly go from hunted to hunters in pursuit of Ma-Ma, the ex-prostitute gang-leader and drug manufacturer supplying a dangerous new product to the whole of Mega-City One.
The good, the bad and the violent
Gone are the cheesy one liners and masked violence of Stallone's portrayal, in Dredd it's brutal and relentless even using mind altering drugs to create slow motion death sequences of even greater gore. Overall there's no real story involved in the film it's all about action and extreme violence. As an action film fan even I found this a little stale with the positives just too overshadowed by the constant violence.
Mega City One. 800 million people living like sardines. We're in the future, and justice is dispensed by Judges, patrolling police representatives who are distinguishable by their body armour and helmets, revealing their mouth area alone. A city full of corruption, and a whole host of criminals to take out. One Judge dispenses justice without emotion. He knows only one thing: the law.
Judge Dredd has been a modern day Dirty Harry since the late 1970s when he was created in the comic book series 2000AD. Known for his streetwise hardnosed attitude to pretty much everything, he has become the benchmark for many a comic book, relying not on superpowers but on sheer brutality and unflinching bravado. We saw an attempt to cinematise him in the 1990s, with Sly Stallone donning the helmet and barking 'I am the law' at a series of slick and glossy sidestreets and accompanied by a heap of heavy ammunition. It didn't work.
And so you can see why there is a lot of trepidation with this film, many thinking it an attempted repeat of Danny Cannon's 90s flop and so no one flocking to the box office to get their fill of pure Dredd. Those who did though may have been pleasantly surprised. What director Pete Travis does well here is in trying to keep to a purist's level of content from the comics but without trying top overdo it and cram too much in. He takes one simple storyline and makes a special effects violence fuelled ammunition loaded hour and a half that is sheer entertainment that doesn't really let you pause too much for breath. And he does it properly. Poor box office showing doesn't really represent what is actually a very mature representation of the classic comic book character, not barking things but maintaining a level of poise and keeping the helmet on.
Karl Urban plays a Dredd with no desire for glory, he merely wants to serve the letter of the law as he is able and as he has signed up to do, as judge jury and executioner. Responding to a call and taking a rookie with him for what should be a routine case, he arrives at Peach Trees, a 200 floor tower block controlled by gang leader Ma-Ma to investigate the deaths of three people who appear to have fallen from a great height. With an central atrium surrounded by thick appartments and corridors from the ground to the sky, the enclosed block is soon under lock down as Dredd and the green rookie Anderson take to the floors to find those responsible, namely Ma-Ma and her crew of drug making gang members.
The action is limited to within the tower block, and this is perhaps Travis' first wise move. After a very brief intro where we are given the circumstances of the world we're about to be introduced to, it's vital that simplicity is maintained. I saw John Carter recently, which tried to explain too much, and what was a very good book ended up being a confusing and overly complicated film that has become Disney's biggest box office failure to date. Travis gives brief intros to setting, scene and character, and then allows the simple action to dictate what happens. For his part, Karl Urban's no nonsense Dredd aids this philosophy and enables us to climb the 200 floors with him and Anderson as they seek out those responsible for the deaths.
The plot is given a couple of slightly more complicated elements along the way, but these merely serve to provide justification to the actions of the Judges and of the gang members. Lena Heady is an effective head villainess in Ma-Ma, ruthless and vicious, and the levels of violence that this film actually beholds should be enough to persuade any parent that an age level of 18 is the only appropriate thing to tag onto this. The special effects team and those behind the music seem to have had the majority of the focus here, and that's probably the right move, allowing the action and emotion to be governed through the dystopian elements of the film, grungy heavy music and powerful bass accompanying slow motion scenes of gore and violence with small snippets of plot integrated throughout.
It's the dystopian elements I liked the best. We see a lot of dystopia through small and big screen, but there are often needs to justify things on a larger scale. Here, because Travis takes us into a singular tower block and repels everyone else outside it for the most part, it allows our minds to focus solely on what we see in front of us and not ask too many questions of the film. As a result, it doesn't need to provide any answers and is able to transfer a simple minority battle of two good guys trying to battle their way to the top floor of a block of appartments to find and bring to justice an evil main character.
It works very well. Oscar winning it is not, but the way the heavy bass and the heavy firepower are given precedent over expert acting is impressive. Purist fans of Dredd will find themselves noticing a number of different geekworthy pieces of graffiti, characters and phrases as the film progresses, sort of a clever message from the director to the fans saying that he is aware of all he COULD have done, but has chosen not to for very good reasons. The fact that he could remains the singular element that makes us trust his judgment and ultimately relax when watching, safe in the hands of someone reliable behind the camera.
I was impressed by this, and I had really entered with a negative attitude, expecting to be disappointed and almost thinking I was going to get another hour and a half of drivel where someone had tried too hard to deliver when they really should have stayed with the basics. It must have taken hard work and a hard driven line in the production meetings to have presented something this safe, but it ticks the boxes and delivers on its promises. This is the sort of Judge Dredd we should be seeing more of: understated, violent, and determined through to the end. He is the law.
**FILM ONLY REVIEW**
Judge Dredd is a comic series that has been running in the British anthology comic, 2000AD, since 1977 and more-or-less appeared in every one of its weekly issues (or Progs, as they are known). The series was originally conceived by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra as a Dirty Harry in the future, and many of the early strips were rather action-heavy featuring the borderline fascist Judge Dredd as he dispensed instant justice to the citizens of Mega City One. Unlike most US comic creations, Judge Dredd aged in real time and his characterisation has vastly changed over the years, to the point where he has grown more disillusioned with the Judges and their role in society, particularly in terms of the mutant segregation.
Most popular in the UK where he was created, Judge Dredd did manage to spawn one big-screen outing where he was portrayed by Sylvester Stallone and memorably bawled out the words, "I am the Law" in a Rocky-style bellow. It wasn't well-received by critics, yet some people (including myself) have a minor soft spot for it, thinking it was probably the only time we'd see Mega City One realised on-screen...until now, that is.
Released in September 2012, Dredd was an attempt to reboot the franchise with a story and a tone appropriate to the content. The script, written by Alex Garland, featured heavy input from the series creator, John Wagner, ensuring this attempt had the blessing of those who had worked on it from its beginnings as a comic strip. The film utilised 3D effects, as well as "slo-mo" - a side effect of an illegal narcotic manufactured by the film's villianess, Ma-Ma.
Having seen both film versions of Judge Dredd, I can easily say that Dredd is the better of the two. Not only does Karl Urban play the tough-as-nails Judge perfectly, but he also doesn't feel the need to remove the helmet in order to showcase his own face. Stallone, on the other hand, whipped off his helmet as soon as he could and paraded through the film acting rather emotional in a non-Dredd manner.
The storyline focuses on Dredd taking a new recruit, the psychic Judge Anderson, on a routine assessment and they manage to pick a homicide at Peach Trees block as their assignment. Quickly, events escalate and the two Judges find themselves trapped in the tower block with a blood-thirsty gang of criminals after them, whilst attempting to escort their prisoner out of the building.
Rather smartly, in my opinion the plot skirts from some of the more absurd elements of the Judge Dredd mythos such as: Droid Revolutions, Clones, Judge Death and the other supernatural villains. I would recommend any sequels stick to this more realistic tone for the world in which Dredd lives. It doesn't look as hi-tech as the stories in 2000AD, nor does it have to. The post-apocalyptic Mega City One in this film feels somewhat similar to Mad Max and I think that mood suits the franchise better. Perhaps future sequels could focus on the Cursed Earth and possibly the Angel gang?
Olivia Thirlby acts as the emotional centre of the film, portraying the fresh-faced Anderson, who spends the entirely of the film without her helmet, as a nice contrast to Dredd. In fact, later on in the film there are multiple Judge's on-screen and it does become difficult to work out which is which, so perhaps Stallone had a point in removing the helmet all those years ago! I liked how the whole movie was effectively her probation test and how she was constantly quizzed by Dredd throughout it. I'm sure the rookie on trial storyline has been done several times in the comics, but it was nice to see it represented on-screen.
The film has a fair amount of gore and some inventive deaths, featuring the varied range of Judge Dredd's multiple ammunition. Also, surprising was the level of swear-words used in the film. The 2000AD Judge Dredd stories obviously don't feature as many F-bombs as the film does and relies on its own in-story bad language such as 'Drokk'. While the film didn't stick to that language, there were plenty of nice references to the comic book in terms of grafitti in the Block. Keen eyes would be able to spot 'Chopper' (a sky-surfer character from the comics) and Sternhammer Block (a reference to Strontium Dog, another series by John Wagner)
Overall, this was a very stylish film that bucked the trend of the big-budget blockbuster and took an independent route. The design and mood was heavily influenced by the location (it was shot in South Africa) and felt like a nice combination of Mad Max and Die Hard, yet managed to carve out its own identity. I would recommend this to anyone who has ever read a Judge Dredd story and wanted to see it in live-action as well as anyone who saw Stallone's portrayal of Dredd, in order to show them how it's done. My only real concern is whether or not a sequel can be as successful, considering they will need to introduce more elements from Dredd's world.
Dredd is a science fiction come action film directed by Pete Travis which was released to UK cinemas on 07 Sept. It is based on comic story 'Judge Dredd'. There has already been a similar film released in 1995 called 'Judge Dredd' but it was confirmed that this film is unrelated and not a sequel.
I saw a trailer for Dredd and whilst I wasn't entirely captivated by the plot idea I was interested to see it as the trailer showed off the special effects used within the film and also presented a far-fetched future world which looked quite intriguing. So I went along to see it but to be honest wasn't expecting too much from it.
The film is set in a future America where due to serious war the majority is waste land , however various "Mega-Cities" are placed in a network. The film is set in Mega City 1 which contains 800 million people. The cities are immediately presented as terrible places where crimes are taking place on a enormous scale to the point where the government can no longer prevent it. Therefore criminals rule the city, however we are presented with a resistance group known as The Judges who are trained soldier-like individuals who are trained and self-funded to arrest prisoners, trial them and ultimately sentence them, often to death or serious punishment.
We are soon introduced to Judge Dredd one of the most skilled and formidable judges in the city. He is given the job of assessing a new judge 'Anderson' and the pair go out to attend to a crime which has taken place in an apartment tower block known as "Peach Trees" which is a slum area controlled primarily by drug lord 'Ma-Ma". Ma-Ma has been let down by 3 of her men and to set an example she skins them before throwing their bodies from her top story apartment. Ma-Ma deals a new drug called Slo-Mo which when inhaled slows down time for the user to 1% of its normal speed.
When the two judges attend to the crime scene they are quickly informed of Ma-Ma's drug den and decide to invade one of the drug dens where they arrest one of Ma-Ma's best men so they can take him for questioning and discover information on Ma-Ma's drug empire. She soon finds out however and takes control of the towers security and brings down its re-enforced war shields, which means the entire building is now encased in metal shutters meaning no-one can get in or out. She ensures this remains by forging a message to the central security controllers to say it is a drill.
She then makes an announcement over the Tannoy system that there are 2 judges in the building and she wants them killed, and once this is done everything can return to normal in the building and no harm will be done. As a result the residents of Peach Trees go after the two judges. The rest of the film follows the judges through their battles against Ma-Ma and the residents of Peach Trees.
To begin with I enjoyed the film and found it very interesting to be thrown into this fictional world which is far-fetched yet does mirror the current conditions in major cities and isnt hard to imagine in real life. The film opens really well and explains well the world the film is set in and the main characters. It doesn't really allow for much thinking though as the main information is handed over on a plate, therefore it is an easy to follow film and not particularly challenging.
Despite the positive opening I began to go off the film from the point where the story actually began and the judges are trapped in Peach Trees. It all just got a bit familiar and predictable. There were so many occasions where I thought they should have been dead by now and it was just very unrealistic. Whilst I was rooting for the 2 protagonists at the beginning, I began to get bored very quickly and soon found myself not really caring what happened to them. I think the film needed a few more twists to keep it going, as the battles began to get a bit repetitive for my liking, particularly because they were all set within the same building.
As a whole the film was quite cheesy at times which was a shame as it could have been a very serious film with its grave reality and 18 certification, however at times like many other films it succumbed to stereotype cheesiness meaning for me it just became another one of 'those' action films that we've all seen before. I felt it had potential to stand out and be different, however it failed to do so.
It also seemed a shame that the entire plot was encased within one building, particularly because we had been presented with such an interesting new world which never really got shown during the film. I had been really captivated by the landscape and atmosphere given to the city at the start of the film, therefore was disappointed not to see more of it.
One thing that I really didn't expect or prepare myself for was the level of violence in the film. I didn't realise it was an 18 until we were sat watching it and I understood why quite quickly. There was a large degree of both explicit and implied violence which gave the film a huge shock factor...especially in 3D. I'm not a fan of horror and gore and could just about tolerate this film but it did leave me feeling a bit creeped out at times! It certainly doesn't hide from gore and shows it in its full glory. I can't be sure if this was a wise move, it does aid the creation of a very dystopic world and makes the film very realist and less Disney...however it is the main reason I wouldn't watch the film again and probably wouldn't watch a sequel. Therefore it kind of spoiled it for me and I might have preferred a toned down version.
I've got mixed feelings regarding the acting in this film. My favourite character was MaMa played by Lena Headey. Lena did an amazing job of depicting what I thought was the most difficult character MaMa, who is mentally disturbed and erratic. She came across as genuinely evil and insane, and managed to create a maddened look in her eyes which made the character really convincing.
The rest of the cast weren't so inspiring. Karl Urban who plays Judge Dredd was ok but was a bit cheesy and over-acted at times. I think the fact that the character is quite hard and serious, and wears a mask covering most of his face, made it a tough job to create a moving memorable performance though. Olivia Thirlby plays Dredds sidekick Judge Anderson, and whilst I did feel she gave a consistent performance and was convincing, I just didn't leave with an amazing impression of her. I haven't seen her in any other films and she may well crop up again, however for now I'm not too interested and will probably soon forget her.
Although I wasn't impressed with the cast as a whole, I'm not sure that casting different actors would have helped. I think even with the best actors in Hollywood the
Now here is the part where I was really impressed! The special effects used to create the fictional city are breathtaking! The film was in 3D which made it even more impressive and I thought the effects used made the film so much better and gave me something to watch it for. And the effects were the main reason I went to see the film in the first place. The film had a huge budget and its understandable when you watch it and see the visual effects which have been used.
There are many scenes featuring use of the drug Slo-Mo which requires time to be slowed down to 1% which creates some beautiful effects. There is one scene where Ma-Ma is in the bath under the influence of the drug and she lifts here arm from the water which in slow motion creates a beautiful water effect. Scenes like this with such amazing use of effects made the film seem worth watching but still weren't enough to convince me it was worthwhile.
The effects were the only element of the film which made it stand out from the crowd and offered something a bit different and on another level. So it's a shame the rest of the film was so predictable and unmemorable.
Other than the special effects and the original concept there wasn't much I liked about this film. The plot was uninspiring and the acting as a whole was unmemorable. The only impact this film left was that I will remember the amazing effects and the shocking violent scenes. I wouldn't bother watching it again and wouldn't recommend it unless you want a geeky film fix and to enjoy some special effects.
After Sylvester Stallone's misguided attempt to bring 2000AD's Judge Dredd to the big screen, this 3D revamp is rather more successful, turning in a script which is reasonably faithful to the basics of the character, whilst remaining accessible to those who don't know their Judge Dredd from their Judge Pickles.
Substance-wise, there's not a lot to Dredd, as you might expect. A new drug, Slo-Mo, is threatening to engulf MegaCity One. When Dredd and rookie Judge Anderson accidentally become trapped in the tower block that is the drug's manufacturing and distribution centre, they have only one option: to fight their way to the top or die in the attempt.
Crucially, Dredd 3D gets the basics right. MegaCity One is simply a larger, grubbier and more dangerous place than many of our current cities but is still recognisable; the problems facing the city are similar to those of the 21st century, simply magnified; the rich get richer and the poor suffer and Dredd is a grim executor of justice. All these basics are crucial in establishing an atmosphere in which Judge Dredd can work as a character.
The casting is excellent. I have to admit I wasn't convinced when Karl Urban was announced in the lead role; even less so when the first publicity shots of him were released. He lacked that imposing nature, the square jaw and grizzled look so crucial to Dredd and seemed to lack presence. In fact, he looked a little weedy and unthreatening. Thankfully, stills don't reflect reality. Whist Urban perhaps lacks the physical bulk needed to be truly intimidating, he does get the character right. He is gruff, hostile, unsympathetic and emotionless. There are no attempts to humanise him or give him a back-story and, most importantly of all, he NEVER removes his helmet. Urban's Dredd is a stone cold killer and makes no apologies for it.
The human element is brought by Olivia Thirlby's psychic Judge Anderson (who never wears a helmet); a much more sympathetic figure who dispenses justice in a more considered, human way but is not afraid to use extreme violence when required to do so. Thirlby copes with the role extremely well, bringing a mixture of violence and vulnerability that captures Anderson's character well. There's also a sense of chemistry between Thirlby and Urban that doesn't rely on quipping, but instead captures the idea that these two very different people need to trust each other if they are to survive.
The big disappointment was Lena Headey as main bad ass Ma-Ma. I have no idea what Headey was aiming for when she came up with this characterisation. Rather than portraying Ma-Ma (as the plot would have you believe) someone who is so screwed up and violent that she has seized control of an entire drugs operation, she comes across as rather pathetic and something of a wet blanket. When issuing orders for death, destruction and torture, she almost appears to be in tears and I genuinely thought that, ultimately, the plot was going to reveal that she was nothing more than a puppet doing the bidding of a more sinister villain. No such thing. As bad guys go, it's entirely possible that Dale Winton would have been more convincing.
Still, Dredd 3D is not about acting, it's about action and on this level, it gets things right. Barely five minutes go by without some sort of shoot-out, violent death or other set-piece to keep the adrenalin pumping. The action is satisfying and keeps you entertained. Crucially, it's also recognised recognises how slim the plot is and that action alone can't sustain it for too long, and so the whole film only lasts for around 95 minutes. Dredd might be little more than a good looking dumb action movie, but at least it keeps its target audience entertained.
The 3D in Dredd 3D is a bit odd. There are a few occasions when it really comes to the fore (a couple of the death sequences are particularly spectacular), but equally there is plenty of the film where it makes absolutely no difference whatsoever. This is possibly because the budget was relatively limited or possibly the decision to make it 3D was taken fairly late on in the process, so a couple of specific scenes were written to make the most of it. Either way, it was actually quite effective. It wasn't over-used so that sequences looked staged, but when it was used, it was used well.
Initially, I did think I might have problems with Director Pete Travis' style and feared his use of special effects and camera tricks (particularly slow motion shots) was going to be excessive and make Zach Snyder look restrained. The initial scenes make you think that this is going to be all style over substance with special effects trying to mask weaknesses elsewhere in the script. As with the 3D, though, the use of these camera tricks is actually well-judged. They are used when they are needed; when they add something to the on-screen action. When they are not needed, Travis reverts to a more straightforward style.
I think it's fair to say that this is probably more of a bloke's film. Certainly at the screening I went to, male members of the audience outnumbered females by a factor of about 10. The subject matter, nature and stylised violence of the film all make it the sort that is likely to appear to men. If you enjoy more gentile entertainment, Dredd is not going to be your cup of tea.
Because make no mistake about it; Dredd 3D revels in violence. Whilst the body count might be as excessively high as (say) The Expendables 2, it shows the same casual attitude to violence and the sanctity of life. There is almost no end to the imaginative ways in which people die (often in close-up slow motion for ensure maximum effect). Limbs are blown off, heads explode, people are sliced in half by falling doors or skinned alive and thrown from the top of very tall buildings. Nor does the film shy away from showing this violence in graphic and gory detail via some genuinely impressive special effects. If you are the least bit squeamish, Dredd 3D is really not the film for you.
I was pleasantly surprised with Dredd 3D. I went in expecting nothing and came out entertained. Whilst it might be very limited in terms of the ambition of its plot, it is nevertheless effective at what it does and manages to capture the spirit of 2000AD even if it never comes close to capturing the complexity of Dredd's world. If ultra-violent comic book adaptations are your thing, then Dredd is certainly going to appeal. I'm already hoping it does well enough to warrant a sequel... and that's not something you could ever say about the Sylvester Stallone effort!
Director: Pete Travis
Running time: approx. 95 minutes
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012