Emerges with more cred than Sly’s Dredd
Judge Dredd is the creation of comic writer John Wagner. Headlining weekly UK anthology 2000AD, Dredd and fellow motorcycle-mounted lawmen protect and serve in a post apocalyptic, crime-ridden sprawl known as Mega-City One. Judges are so-called due to their on-the-spot sentencing: policeman, judge, jury and executioner in one. Dredd’s previous outing, starring Sly Stallone, was berated for the blasphemous removal of Dredd’s trademark helmet and diluting the dark, über-violent tone of the comic with the inclusion of a comedy side-kick.
This version, starring Karl Urban (Star Trek, Lord Of The Rings), clearly aims to make full amends for the above crimes. Urban’s take on Dredd’s infamous underbite is admirable if only for the effort he’s put into it. Having not been endowed with the required chin, the Kiwi gnaws through his dialogue, growling out every scene like the words were chewing tobacco. That’s part of the problem though; neither physically nor facially is he ideally cast, so there’s a sense that he’s always reaching for the role and never quite managing to settle in it.
If Urban is the chin, his side-kick, thankfully not Rob Schneider, is the heart: Olivia Thirlby is better suited to her role as the spirited but insecure rookie Anderson. One of the more effective scenes is her introduction to Dredd where she is stopped short of delivering a full psychological evaluation of him via her empathic skills. It serves to highlight his ‘anger and control’, hinting at a bottomless depth of pain, but crucially preserving the character’s air of mystery. It offers a vital glimpse into this character whose eyes we’ll never read, and of the dynamic that will drive the film’s rather sparse narrative.
Even though the action is mostly contained in one high-rise residential block, the production’s minimal budget still noticeably creaks in delivering the goods. Multi-coloured lighting illuminates the gleeful comic-book violence, harkening pleasantly back to ‘80s genre cinema. Much of the action centres around a drug that speeds up the brain so it experiences time at one percent its normal speed. This device allows for the film’s more visually inventive sequences, ensuring that your eyes are often kept busy. Your brain, on the other hand, can afford to run considerably slower than usual.
Dir: Pete Travis; US/UK/Ind action, 2012, 95 mins; Karl Urban, Olivia Thrilby, Lena Headey
Premieres September 27