Sep 22, 2012 / 2:00 pm
You would think that when a studio decides to do a remake that they would have the sense to not pick a film as dreadful as 1995's Judge Dredd which starred Sylvester Stallone. Thankfully, the new version isn't really a remake of that film but more of a different interpretation of the character which debuted in a British comic strip 35 years ago. This Dredd adheres far more to the original source material in that it is very gritty and violent, but don't let the fact that it is based on a comic book make you think that you can take your kids to this - I would advise against that as Dredd is a hard R for its excessive and brutal violence.
Set in the vast dystopian metropolis known as Mega-City One, which lies within a post-apocalyptic wasteland that once was the Eastern United States, the only force of order is the Judges, who act as judge, jury, and sometimes executioner. The latest scourge on the city is an addictive new drug called "Slo-Mo", which slows the user's perception of time to 1% of normal. Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is tasked with evaluating rookie Judge Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who happens to have psychic abilities but has failed all of her previous tests to become a full Judge. When a triple homicide occurs at a 200-story slum building, Dredd and Anderson respond and subsequently learn of a major drug den that is in the building, which is run by the ruthless Ma-Ma (an almost unrecognizable and heavily scarred Lena Headey). Upon assaulting the den, they arrest Kay (Wood Harris), one of Ma-Ma's top henchmen, after Anderson psychically detects his involvement in the murders. To prevent Kay being removed from the building and interrogated about her operation, Ma-Ma's forces seize the tower's security control room and seal the building using its blast shields under the pretense of a security test, preventing the Judges from leaving or summoning help. Ma-Ma then orders Dredd's and Anderson's deaths. The Judges must now proceed through the building with Kay in tow to try and find safety from the numerous armed men who are trying to kill them.
Filmed in Cape Town, South Africa by British director Pete Travis (Vantage Point), Dredd is a high-octane action thriller that is pretty unrelenting for most of its duration. We are thrust into the thick of things almost immediately with very little backstory given to the characters, especially Dredd. Karl Urban does a solid job utilizing a gruff voice a la Batman to convey his emotions since we never see his face. He never takes the helmet off so his entire performance is seen through his mouth and jaw, which he uses to good effect by scowling a lot.
The visuals are very well done, especially the sequences of super-cool slow-motion photography, which are spread sparingly throughout the course of the picture and showcase the 3D effects at their best as you can literally count the drops of blood as they splatter towards you. Did I mention how much bloodshed is in this film? Yeah, a ton, I lost track of the body count after a while as the unflinching violence just keeps coming at you.
One thing that I wasn't crazy about though is the claustrophobic feeling of being in the same looking concrete environment for over an hour. It did grow somewhat tiresome after a bit. This is a very bleak and dark film but there are a few moments of deadpan humour scattered throughout.
Dredd should appeal to hardcore fans of the character and to those that like their action movies hard boiled. There's plenty of gunplay and carnage to satisfy your needs if that is what you seek.
Despite my reservations going into this film, I found it to be a fairly entertaining, albeit dark and intense experience. I'm not raving about it, but I do think it's worth seeing.
I give Dredd a 7 out of 10.
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