Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Dredd: Now with 100% Less Rob Schneider


Of all the remakes, reboots, reimaginings, reworkings, refits and refurbishings of old films which hollywood is puking at us, here's one I don't begrudge them.

For fans of Judge Dredd to only have the day-glo silliness of the 1995 Stallone vehicle on the big screen must have felt as if Batman fans only had Schumacher films. They wanted a darker, more violent and cynical Dredd. And they wanted the helmet to stay the fuck on.

Well, fear not! Here come screenwriter Alex Garland - usually found sketching dystopias with Danny Boyle ("28 Days Later", "Sunshine") - and director Pete Travis, like a pair of movie wish-granting fairygodmothers.


This wish is a horse in the shape of Karl Urban's snarling chin. Urban is ace as Dredd - all whispered menace and growling rage - and he never takes the helmet off. He does more with body language, grimaces and jaw-jut than many actors could manage in an extreme close up.

Travis knows exactly how to present Dredd as well, surrounding him with people smaller than him 'til he dominates the screen like a monolith. A striding, unstoppable force of nature, only occasionally revealing tiny glimpses of human frailty.

So this is the version of the character we've been waiting for, but what about the world, and film, he's been nestled into?


The ruined landscape of Megacity One is presented in hyper-real detail, a "District 9" future/present hybrid rather than a "Blade Runner" tech-fantasy, and feels all the more tangible for it.

For the  the most part, this is a tight, amusing and brutal action thriller with a simple, effective concept. Dredd and his rookie partner get trapped in a massive tower block and loads of baddos try to kill them. It's the Future-"Raid". It's "Die Hard with a Helmet".

There are a few quibbles: Lena Headey doesn't get a lot to do as villainous Ma-Ma, but what she does, she does well. Though the action is scrappy and bloody, there is only one truly memorable set-piece, some of the story developments do feel like pop-up obstacles for Dredd to knock down, there might be a little too much drug-induced slow-motion for impatient souls, and it seems Dredd's shoulder pads prevent him from raising his arms sufficiently, leaving him brandishing his gun in a manner not dissimilar to Vern from "Stand by Me". No wonder they went out in the 80s.


This, like Batman's inability to look up, is a problem to be solved in the sequel. A sequel which I would welcome. Dredd is the perfect franchise kickstart, giving us a glimpse of a rich, vivid universe before zeroing in on literally a day in the life of our hero. There's a whole world left for Dredd to explore, and if this grimy, gory, Verhoeven-style callous killfest is anything to go by, I want to be along for the ride.