Sunday, 3 February 2013

Dredd Review



Amongst the barrage of superhero blockbusters of 2012, Dredd failed to similarly achieve those high box office results. And in hindsight its a painful shame. After missing its wide release, I indulged in purchasing the Blu-ray, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. 1995’s adaptation of the cult comic-book franchise starred Sylvester Stalone proved to be a resounding disaster that didn’t justify a studio financing another film. I myself had never delved into John Wagner’s Judge Dredd, and had been put off the idea of another cinematic misstep. 

Directed by Pete Travis of relatively little fame, Dredd takes a similar approach to The Raid, or is it the other way round? Writer and producer Alex Garland creates a plot that follows the always stern Judge Dredd in the desperate attempt to rid the hostile woes of MegaCity. Joined by the psychic rookie Anderson, the two investigate a triple homicide within the 200-storey slum block Peach Trees. What unfolds is a full-scale battle against the gang members of Ma Ma’s clan within the walls of the isolated complex. Condensed into a “fight to the final boss” structure, Dredd takes no shortcuts in framing the violent and insincere nature of Megacity and its occupants. From the start you quickly get a sense of what Garland and Travis intended; a film that entertains its audience and also brings some justice to the source material, to which plays it very safe. Removing itself from the rather obscure grounds of Judge Death and Rico Dredd, the plot grounds the context into a semi-realistic and approachable manner that doesn’t swamp the screen with fanfare and impenetrable writing. 

Dredd doesn’t aspire to dramatic heights with a narrative that complements the over-the-top nature of the film. Yet the contextual development of Dredd’s world and characters is significantly underplayed. Urban’s initial narration constitutes the only attempt to add substance to anything which feels like a missed opportunity to build something unique and interesting from the source material. Instead Dredd focuses on its bloody and violent, action set-pieces that reach over-the-top levels with entire floors being showered in bullets. Neither is Dredd  a tasking piece of performance-driven cinema. But Carl Urban and Olivia Thirlby prove well cast in their rather shallow roles. Urban plays a convincing Dredd with a stern jaw and insanely devoted mentality. Meanwhile Thirlby confidently slots into her supporting role that offers a touch of charm. Lena Headey’s Ma-Ma isn’t particularly memorable or unique, but she offers a competent and threatening antagonist.  

Dredd's ties to its 1995 counterpart have proven damaging to the success of this underrated gem of 2012. Gone is the awkwardness of the comicbook franchise’s initial adaptation, instead replaced by a gritty and hard-hitting action film that should put a smile on the audience’s faces. 

7/10 






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