Tuesday, 23 October 2012


Icon Film Distribution
Now Showing

When the trailer for Gareth Evans' high-energy actioner, The Raid, was launched online late 2011-early 2012, all those involved with Pete Travis' Dredd must have let out a collective 'oh, shit!' For The Raid and Dredd share a similar premise – good guys fighting bad guys in a tower block in lock down – and while that similarity is more coincidence than by design, the latter film suffers as a result.

Well, if you've seen The Raid, that is (and if you haven't, you should: it's available on DVD now). Not only does Evans' film benefit from being the first released, but its handling of the concept is far superior to Dredd in every way (except visually).

Dredd is set in the future where society has collapsed, America is now a police state, and justice is meted out by the Judges: judge, jury and (often) executioners rolled into one who patrol the cities on suped-up motorcycles and come fully-equipped with an arsenal of weapons.

And Judge Dredd (Karl Urban, presumably: we only ever see his mouth and chin for he never removes his helmet) is the best of them. Inscrutable, incorruptible and personality-free, Dredd takes his work seriously. He's none-too-pleased, however, when he's assigned to babysit a rookie, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby, unrecognizable from her role in Juno); an underachieving cadet from the Academy but promoted to potential Judge-dom due to her mind-reading abilities.

And those abilities will come in handy when the pair are trapped inside a tower block (the misleadingly named Peach Trees) and targeted for termination by the city's reigning queen of crime, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey, a.k.a Evil Keira Knightley, and here looks like Keira's Domino character fallen on seriously hard times).

Ma-Ma issues a fatwa on the Judges to prevent them leaving Peach Trees with one of her minions in custody. He'll inevitably talk if taken back to police headquarters for interrogation so Ma-Ma declares it open season. Cue The Block, in reverse and with high-powered weapons as the tools of trade.

Based on the comic books – which were given a less than spectacular cinema-outing in the 1995 Judge Dredd, where it was Sylvester Stallone donning the helmet and badge – I'm led to believe that Dredd is a dark and bloody satire on the current state of the world. And Travis' version (penned by Alex Garland, based on characters created by Carlos Ezquerra) is definitely bloody.

But if it is satire than I missed the point. I certainly didn't discern any wit flying amid the bullets and the bodies. And Urban's one-liners fall as flat as some of Ma-Ma's victims (seriously, anyone could have played Dredd so robotic is the performance).

As you can no doubt guess, I wasn't a fan of Dredd. There is a drug in this dystopic future known as Slo-Mo, designed to create for its users the illusion of time moving slowly, and deployed specifically by the filmmakers for visual effect (which is one of the film's few redeeming features; I'll admit there are moments that are visually arresting). But I was hoping at some point they'd introduce another drug – Fa-Fo, or Fast Forward – so I could hurry up and get the hell out of there.

No comments:

Post a Comment