Oct 052012

Fresh from Mega-City One, Becca ponders whether Dredd is drokk…

Another comic book gets a film adaptation (2000AD this time. Heard of it? Nah, me neither) – only this isn’t the first time the infamous Judge Dredd has been on the silver screen. With Sylvester Stallone as the title character in 1995, it wasn’t a particularly memorable experience, and looks dismally camp compared to this latest film reboot.

Set in the near future, the city streets of America are festering with crime, violence and drug abuse, so much so that your ordinary police officer of today would probably run away and hide to see it.

That’s where the Judges come in: an elite group of hard-core, helmeted soldiers armed with the best defences against such crimes, with an attitude to match. Dredd (Karl Urban, Star Trek) is the greatest there is, and this time, he’s got some help from a young psychic named Anderson (Olivia Thirlby, Juno), who is a Judge-in-training… and is about to be thrown in at the deep-end.

A new drug, created in the building known as ‘Peach Tree’ is the latest, illegal craze, one that makes the world appear to be at 1% its normal speed, earning it the name SLO-MO. The woman behind it all is Ma-ma (Lena Headley), who doesn’t appear to know what a hairbrush or toothbrush is. Her gang want Dredd and Anderson out of their territory, so it isn’t long before she’s rallying the troops, and locking down the entire building –but for just two people, it does seem a tad extreme.

Then again, maybe not. Big explosions, heavy bass, and splatters of blood soon follow, as Judge and Anderson shoot their way through the many corridors to find Ma-ma. It’s violent, yes, but I’ve definitely seen worse in other 18 films; in a strange way, it’s almost tasteful. On the other hand, the criminals (and there are a lot of those in this film, as you might expect) seem to spend most of their time swearing and spouting monologues than actually doing anything terrible, like disposing of the Judges when they had the chance to.

Nevertheless, Urban is great as Dredd  he doesn’t say much, but when he does, it’s either with a snappy one-liner, or a growling phrase that makes you murmur “Cool…” like a complete moron. Headley’s performance is engrossing, as she purposely acts and speaks with quiet malevolence, which has the power to sound disinterested, as well as deadly: Ma-ma is clearly a woman who doesn’t give a toss about anything, and bloomin’ well likes it. However it is Thirlby who lets things down. She is miserably average in her role, despite massive potential, but it’s insightful to see how her mutant powers work, particularly in one quite memorable scene with Ma-ma’s right-hand man, Kay. The duo have dragged him with them to be interrogated, so she takes him inside his mind, only to discover that is kinda…empty, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg of her ability. You immediately assume she will be the one saving the say at the end, but – well, I’ll just let you see it for yourself, shall I?

Things do start to get confusing, however, when more Judges enter the scene, and make further mess. Who’s side are they on anyway, or was my head too busy trying not to bleed from the excessive use of heavy bass within the soundtrack (no matter how awesome it sounded!) for me to figure it out…? I still have no idea!

So, if you like your comic book adaptations dark, pessimistic and grimy, with a soundtrack that’ll make your head split open, this is your film to see.

Rating: 3/5