Review roundup - Your move creep...

DREDD (2012)

Original write up January '13

I was never a huge reader of 2000AD or comics generally as a kid - simply because I couldn't get hold of them often, but I did try to get my hands on them when at all possible be it through random issues sold in mid 90s newsagent shelves or as annuals and collections I found in local used book shops. This one was easily the favourite thanks to Judge Dredd's visual appearance, his world and the characterisation and they left their mark on my imagination, along with things like body recyclers, ugly fads (Get Ugly!) and riot foam. So after much personal anticipation as a fan both of the source and of this kind of sci-fi cinema, John Wagner's big chinned fascist finally gets a movie worth seeing, and more importantly includes the character he created.

Karl Urban impresses in the title role with a bare minimum of script, and gets a character he can call his own after smaller parts in the likes of The Lord of the Rings sequels, The Bourne Supremacy or even Star Trek. Despite me liking him in all of these, they were never his movies of course, so this changes that - and he does it without eyes. It's a dirty, grimy, ultra-violent film full of exploding limbs and flying gore, a nice new and old mix of the kinds of future visions we used to see from say Verhoeven and Carpenter. It's a shame the rating this gained the picture probably killed it at the box office, but a low marketing presence and the source material's lack of exposure internationally probably didn't help, and I don't think the push for 3D on this kind of budget did it any favours.

It's not for everyone of course, and saying so is perhaps quite an understatement. Dredd is a wonderful jerk, grimacing and sneering throughout the story, dishing out death and oh-so dry quips, the villains are an ugly, violent bunch and the tone of the movie is certainly no buddy cop adventure. No scenery chewing to be found, just thugs and lowlifes. Personally I like this adaptation a lot, and it's refreshing to see it as a kind of anti-thesis to say the Avengers movie earlier in the year. Cheap and not cheerful. And as for the plot, it's a simplistic story. Taking a rookie on board for a simple murder investigation, it soon turns out to be a lot more complicated but essentially boils down to shooting everyone they meet to get to the big bad at the top of a city sized tower building. It feels a little video gamey at times, right down to the bombastic synth score - but I can't complain much about that, it's pretty satisfying.

A few minor issues I felt were the lack of futuristic elements, a few added robots and hover wagons would have been nice even just as set dressing. And despite nailing the tone instantly, a gun is used to fire a bullet called hotshot in the opening chase. It's a great movie moment but it doesn't make much sense given it's comic rendition. That said the mostly useless 1995 attempt failed to bring the material to the screen besides looking the part thanks to (some of) the production design, so despite these qualms I am grateful that this really is Dredd on screen instead of a cheese and ham filled Stallone vehicle. This isn't the place for it. There is a lack of direct satire but it has a few touches, I like the grave yard headstone city landscape and the way Dredd's trainee Anderson actually becomes a cog in the system by the end despite kicking ass along the way. Innocence lost? Perhaps, it's an interesting idea. So besides some minor complaints the big shame in the end is that this won't get a sequel, but the DVD sales are looking strong enough to call it a future cult movie at least.