The film’s first trailer took a while to get released, then when we saw it, the film looked too familiar in storyline to this year’s earlier release The Raid. Instantly, the film was receiving comparisons to The Raid, as well as comparisons to the 1995 Sylvester Stallone film. Then along came the early buzz from Comic-Con, and it seemed as though Dredd was something to behold.
Fortunately, the positive early word was correct. This is a great adaptation of 2000AD’s classic Judge. The film opens with Judge Dredd in silhouette putting his helmet on (whilst a voice over explains the world we’re in). We see the Mega City and the Mega blocks, with the Cursed Earth just outside its walls.
Then we’re thrown into a car chase. The cars have wheels. Dredd is giving chase to a suspect, and as soon as the suspects have hit an innocent pedestrian, Dredd is out for bloody justice. As soon as he’s caught up with the ‘hot shot’, we soon find out why this film is an 18 certificate in the UK.
The violence is pretty extreme and fairly gory, just in this opening chase alone. There are skinnings, brains over pavements, bullets tearing through flesh in slow-motion, and much more, all in graphic detail.
However, what seperates this from gorno territory (like Saw or Hostel, for example) is that the violence is there to illustrate the harsh reality of this world, serves the plot, and is off-set with some dark humour (usually from a deadpan line delivered superbly by Urban’s Dredd).
Dredd is paired off, reluctantly, with a rookie, and the pair head off to a multiple homicide in the block named Peach Trees (named after the pub where Alex Garland met the Dredd creator John Wagner). They are soon sealed into the block, with Ma-Ma’s lackies, a drugs lab, and 200 floors of carnage.
Urban is brilliant as Dredd. He is cold and blunt, and most of the film’s funnier moments come from a gruff line from the Judge. Elsewhere Lena Heady is also good in the role of Ma-Ma and doesn’t overly ham it up. It is also good to see The Wire’s Avon Barksdale in a similar role as one of Ma-Ma’s lackies.
The 3D looks impressive too, especially during the slo-mo scenes. When one character is thrown through a glass window, each shard of glass explodes from the cinema screen and appears to hover above the audience in the cinema.
The film’s 90 minute run time never feels too long or too short. I have high hopes for a sequel, and would love to see the world of Dredd explored more fully on the big screen (Dark Judges anyone?).
Where the main action of this film all takes place in one mega block, it can feel a smaller fare than if the action took place over the whole city, or branched out into the Cursed Earth. However, in this setting we see people’s lives. We see how the citizen’s try and survive in such a violent world, and we see how some live (a scene where Anderson comes face to face with the consequences of earlier actions is particularly affecting).
Any comparisons between this and The Raid, or indeed the 95 Stallone film are unfair, as this is different enough to The Raid to not feel like repetition, and different enough to the Stallone film to not feel like a sequel (thankfully). Fingers crossed for a sequel.