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Film Review: Dredd (2012)
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Dredd (2012). Directed by Pete Travis, and based on the stories from the 2000AD comics. The film is set in the post apocalyptic future of Mega-City One, located on what's left of the north-east coast of the USA. In an attempt to defeat the terrible crime across a city of 800 million people the judges are created. Although mostly a police force they also have the ability to pass sentence, and execute for grave crimes. Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is the most famous judge in the city and as the film starts he is chasing known criminals that are under the influence of drugs and driving illegally. After the criminals are dispatched in true Judge Dredd style he returns to Justice Central where he is put in charge of assessing a rookie judge, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who needs to survive the day suitably to become a fully fledged judge. I should declare two things before reviewing the film. Firstly, I read and loved Judge Dredd (and 2000AD) as a teenager (20+ years ago). I even bought and played the Judge Dredd role-playing game (including miniatures) briefly. I can't remember much of the detail of Judge Dredd though, so I couldn't nitpick even if I wanted to. Secondly, although it was much berated at the time, and more so subsequently, I like the first film outing of Judge Dredd with Sylvester Stallone. it wasn't a classic, but you can read my retro review if you want more detail. Dredd (2012) appears to have gone to some effort at least to be a polar opposite to the earlier film. Gone are the complicated story, moments of silly humour, and a Dredd that takes his helmet off (the latter will mean something to a fan of the comics). They are replaced by a simple stripped down story, brutality (extreme at times) with moments of dark humour (which feels like a better reflection of what I remember of the comics), and a Dredd that keeps his helmet on. In terms of negatives: Mega-City One isn't quite the futuristic city I remember, and it feels like an estate in Brixton a lot of the time. The judges ride around on what seem to be more converted motorbikes than huge lawmasters. The casting didn't feel ideal: Urban doesn't quite have the presence of the Dredd I remember, even if he does a good job of the chin. The Chief Judge also feels particularly weak. Thirlby is excellent though, as is Lena Headey (Dredd's nemesis in the story, the drug lord Ma-Ma). The story centres around the drug Slo-Mo, which dramatically slows down time for the user. In film terms this means lots of slow motion shots, and perhaps too many. 3D is used to good effect, particularly during the slow motion shots, and definitely adds to the film, although I could have survived with 2D. The negatives are niggles though, and overall the film compensates with among other things a fantastic atmosphere, great pacing, and a good soundtrack. Those who will be revolted by someone shot in the face in slow motion should avoid. Those who can stand a bit of Mega-City One brutality may well enjoy. A charitable 5/5 (Excellent)
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