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Dredd 3D - Review


Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

ADAPTING 2000AD’s iconic Judge Dredd into a successful movie franchise was always going to be a tricky proposition given the grim, violent nature of the world he exists in and the portrayal of the character himself.

Sylvester Stallone tried and failed (dismally) in 1995 but by softening the tone and removing the revered helmet he almost sounded the death knell for Dredd’s cinematic hopes.

Well over 10 years later and Dredd seems ripe for a revival given the overwhelming success of comic book movies of late. And the good news is that writer Alex Garland and director Pete Travis have delivered the film that fans deserve.

Resisting the temptation to go soft and teen friendly this is an ultra-violent, no holds barred approach that stays loyal to the vision of both co-creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra.

Set in a futuristic America where the East Coast from Boston to Washington has been turned into a giant metropolis known as Mega City One and where cops known as judges attempt to keep control of the lawless streets by serving as judge, jury and executioner, Dredd follows the eponymous hero (played by Karl Urban) over the course of a day in which he must train and assess a psychic rookie recruit (Olivia Thirlby).

When called to investigate a triple homicide at a tower block, however, the two judges find themselves trapped inside by the building’s sadistic drug dealer owner Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and left with no option but to shoot their way out to survive.

Unflattering comparisons to the similarly plotted The Raid aside (which, admittedly, a lot of mainstream viewers won’t have seen), Dredd is a solid action film that has a lot to recommend it.

Travis’ direction succeeds in creating a grim, gritty future America that’s visually impressive while his unflinching, even stylised approach to violence (quite often using super slow-mo to convey the effects of a new designer drug) take the balletic excess of the likes of John Woo and Sam Peckinpah to even greater heights.

One gunfight, in particular, is somehow perversely breathtakingly beautiful on the way bullets rip through flesh in slow-mo, while Dredd’s power is emphasised in his ability to crush an adversary’s throat with a single punch.

Performance-wise, too, the film delivers the goods. Urban convinces wholesale as Dredd, steadfastly refusing to remove the helmet and, for the most part, remaining deliberately one dimensional – although he does offer glimpses of humanity and a dark sense of humour to even out the tone.

What little emotion there is comes from Thirlby, who excels as his partner, combining an outward vulnerability with hidden guile and unexpected physicality, while Headey’s Ma-Ma is imposing, if under-used.

Some may find proceedings too brutal and unrelenting, while the lack of emotional investment or character development, especially on Dredd’s part, is a bit of a missed opportunity.

But Travis’ film hits more than it misses and does enough to both please the fans and set up a possible franchise.

Certificate: 18
Running time: 90mins
UK Release Date: September 7, 2012