Pro: Unadulterated action fun
After 1995’s Judge Dredd
was so god-awful that it even managed to mark a low point in Sylvester Stallone’s far from uniformly stellar career, it’s incredible that anyone would dare another attempt at adapting the cult British comic. And yet, Pete Travis – helped by scriptwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later)
and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (Antichrist
) – has pulled off a veritable triumph.
Highly faithful to its source material, Dredd
is a shameless and irresistible revelry of political incorrectness and super-aestheticised ultra-violence delivered at breakneck speed and gorgeously rendered in one of the best uses of 3D to date.
The story sees Dredd (Urban) and his rookie apprentice (Thirlby) locked in a high-rise building seething with bad guys, having to reach the 200th floor to take out the leader and making full use of Dredd’s authority as judge, jury and executioner – particularly the latter – on the way. Some will inevitably take issue with the film’s flagrant lack of morality, but do you really need it spelled out that a fascist police state is not exactly the best of ideas?
With Christopher Nolan’s brand of superhero film dominating in recent years, moralising the viewer to death with tedious and unnecessary (not to mention painfully conservative) political overtones, it’s truly refreshing to have these vapid pretensions cast aside to allow for some unadulterated action fun, of which Dredd
is the absolute epitome. GMC
Con: Mindless testosterone
With mounds of bloodied corpses reminiscent of Titus Andronicus,
this foray into the monochrome lands of (tautologically) mindless testosterone demonstrates, once again, that little boys like big toys. If this is your particular poison, stop reading now.
If, however, watching action movies is not concomitant with automatic shutdown of intellectual and moral faculties you may find yourself asking one or all of the following questions.
1. Force or farce? There is a difference, and it would have been discernable had director Travis given Dredd time to read his full job description. Judge, jury and executioner: that implies a sequence, some dialogue maybe, anything indicating a vestige of jurisprudential procedure. This takes place once, and then it’s back to painting bullet patterns in the concrete.
2. Rookie or cookie? Thirlby’s performance as a mutant psychic trainee in thrall to the monosyllabic Dredd is as uniform as her body armour and imperturbable lipstick, registering barely a raised eyebrow as she accepts, carries out and then walks away from her assignment and her future in the force (hello, sequel).
3. Finally: slug or drug? The plot centres on the criminal manufacture and widespread use of a drug that induces a slow-mo experience of reality, so the rapid physical reactions of the heroes and presumably afflicted villains are visually effective but thematically puzzling. In short, and to misquote a line from kinder cinematic times: if that’s what she’s having, I’ll pass. EL
Dredd 3D | Directed by Pete Travis (UK, USA, India 2012) with Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby. Starts November 15