Movie review – A future to Dredd

2012-09-28 10:34

Film: Dredd 3D (UIP)
Director: Pete Travis
Featuring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby and Lena Headey
Rating: 7/10

If at first you don’t succeed, try again.

That is clearly Hollywood’s motto, and in cases like this, it works.

The first film version of the famous British 2000 AD comic-book hero Judge Dredd features a suitably expressionless Sylvester Stallone and the inhabitants of Mega-City One look like they ran away with an 80s popstar’s wardrobe.

This rebooted version, complete with a mercilessly pessimistic screenplay by Alex Garland, takes gritty to the max.

The premise of the comic strip is that the world has finally nuked itself and what is left are megacities surrounded by radioactive desert.

The people in the cities live in monstrous apartment blocks that hold up to 50?000 people, crime is rife and the law is deadly – the judges have the weapons to track criminals down and then they become judge, jury and executioner.

Karl Urban is the new-generation Dredd (and no, he never takes his helmet off in true Dredd tradition) and he snarls his way through a death-defying sequence of firefights, all the while keeping his rookie judge, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), impressed.

The pair are called to an incident in one of the megablocks – one run by the ruthless Ma-Ma (Lena Headey).

Headey is best known these days as the murderous Cersei Lannister in the TV series Game of Thrones, but her Ma-Ma character makes Cersei look like a bit of a softy.

Ma-Ma is a former prostitute-turned-drug empress who is about to corner the Slo-Mo market.

Slo-Mo is a new drug that slows time down and Ma-Ma is not about to slow down her drug empire building just because a couple of judges have entered her domain.

She shuts down the building and hands out shoot-to-kill instructions.

This is the guts of this film – a showdown between justice and criminality, and there is a certain amount of comfort in knowing that (because this is a comic-book hero) justice will triumph.

That’s probably why Judge Dredd is so popular, that and his ability to circumvent the cumbersome legal system.

Perhaps the most depressing thing about this futuristic story – and that’s including the fact that the world has been reduced to a wasteland – is that women’s rights seem to be no further along than they are now.

The female Judge Anderson faces threats of rape, the wives of gang members are holed up in ratty flats doing chores and looking after wailing babies, and the female baddie got that way after she was abused by her pimp.

British director Pete Travis brings his gift for action sequencing, which he perfected in Vantage Point, with just the right amount of tension to create a version of the Dredd story that pleased the character’s creators, John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, and so is likely to please fanboys too.

Garland’s screenplay, though, leaves little reason to rejoice, because even after the battle is won, the war is far from over.

Dredd is a good name for it, because if the future’s anything like this, it is indeed something to dread.

» Follow me on Twitter @GayleMahala

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