Thursday, 19 November 2015

Dredd (2012)

I'm something of a casual fan of Judge Dredd, in that I own a few of the collected trade paper backs, and will probably buy more eventually.  However I've probably read only about a tenth of his near-forty year publication history in the pages of 2000 AD and its affiliated magazines.

I'm no expert on him, in other words, but I do have enough affection for the source material that I approached this 2012 adaptation with the sincere hope it would be a much better film than the execrable Stallone effort from the 1990s.

And in that regard, I was not disappointed.

Dredd is not a particularly sophisticated film.  It's almost entirely confined to a single location - albeit a rather expansive one in the form of a 200-storey 'megastructure' containing 75,000 inhabitants - and the narrative is pretty simple. Dredd and the rookie Judge (police officer) he's assessing end up tangling with a large, heavily armed gang of mobsters in a running gun battle that occupies most of the film's length.

When you make a film as focused - and especially as action-focused - as this one, you really need to nail your casting.  Your need actors who can to define and express their characters with only brief snatches of dialogue and a lot of non-verbal cues.  And it's here that the film makers have really excelled.  Karl Urban is tremendous as the implacable Dredd - but then Karl Urban managed to be good in Doom, so the man's obviously something special. He's ably matched by Lena Headey as the twitchy, psychotic villain Ma-Ma, while Olivia Thirlby brings just the right balance of nerves and steeliness to her portrayal of rookie Judge Anderson.

If you're looking for a solid action film and don't mind if it comes with some SF trappings, this is a good way to spend ninety minutes of your time.

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