It’s not often that I turn my reviewer’s eye upon DVD releases these days. I’m not entirely sure why, though it has something I’m sure yo do with a feeling that the moment has passed. With Dredd earlier reviewing wasn’t possible due to the rarity of 2D cinema showings — and I promise that this won’t turn into another anti-3D rant — but nevertheless I feel compelled to review it now, despite the lateness.
So here we go. Dredd is a film adaptation of a comic from the monolithic British series 2000AD. Set in a post-apocalyptic US, in which nuclear fallout has resulted in the population clustering in areas such as Mega-City One, a city of 800 million people, where justice is enforced by the Judges. Veteran Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) takes rookie Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) on an assessment patrol, and the two end up sealed in a tower block controlled by Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) — with the criminal populace trying to kill them.
Make no mistake, this is violent fare. It harks back to the genesis of the source comic, as a reaction to the folksy Beano style comics of the time. It will shock and appall some, but really focusing on it like that misses the point.
I enjoyed it a lot. Considering there was a lot of scope for it to go wrong (see the perplexing and less-than-good 1995 Sylvester Stallone film), and there was an awful lot riding on the shoulders of Karl Urban. Dredd is a role difficult to play, because it requires a very stripped-down kind of acting. Done right, only the bottom third of his face should be visible (thank the Gods of genre cinema that they didn’t take off his helmet), so most of the acting has to be through voice and body language.
Thankfully, Urban was up to the challenge. His gruff, seasoned and authoritative Dredd worked splendidly, and was ably counterbalanced by Thirlby’s greener, more empathetic rookie. A lot of the dynamics are similar to those ten-a-penny cop duo movies, but thankfully a lot less boring.
I only really have two criticisms. Firstly, I felt that Lena Headey was underused. As anyone who has seen her excellent performance in the Game of Thrones episode “Blackwater” can attest, she is very talented when it comes to playing villains. Here, however, she gets far too little screen time, and far too little opportunity to work her magic.
Secondly, the slow motion effect. Yes, I get that it was a plot point, but its overuse did get a little tiresome. Once you’ve seen one person falling from a tower block, you’ve really seen them all.
But those really are mild complaints. Overall this was an excellent film, beautifully made and well acted. The fact that it wasn’t more widely applauded than it was (in spite of the hideous problem with 3D) is a travesty.