Saturday, 15 September 2012
FILM REVIEW: Dredd
After a few busy days of travelling around the South West, what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon with lots of ballsy, brainless gore? Not usually my type of film, but sometimes you have to follow your favourite people - lovely Olivia Thirlby - and every so often, just something about one of these ten a penny genre flicks will pique my interest. British, refreshingly stubborn with its 18 rating, strong cast and an even stronger trailer - I put my desire for an unchallenged afternoon off in the hands of Dredd (sadly in inescapable 3D).
Set in the apocalyptic futuristic city of Mega City One, where civilisation has fallen into crime, disorder and ruin, it is up to the Judges of the Hall of Justice to serve as the law: as judge, jury, executioner all in one. When a homicide is reported at one of the major high rise tower blocks in the city, Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) and his shadowing rookie Anderson (Thirlby) take the decision to investigate, but when they capture a suspect and lead him off to his sentencing, the exits of the tower block are closed when drugs 'queen pin' Mama (Lena Headey) seals off the whole building and demands the two Judges be killed by her posse of Slo Mo addicted henchmen, who live all over the complex.
Firstly - STOP WITH THE COMPARISONS TO THE RAID! Any time I hear this film being talked about, the other British film that's set in the confines of a tower block is brought up needlessly. I haven't seen The Raid so perhaps I am less subjective, but that is a martial arts movie dependent on choreographed fighting techniques to steer the film, whereas Dredd is a gritty, violent sci-fi action film based on a comic book series, so though the plots may crossover comparing the two is lazy. So let's all just drop it.
Some of the set pieces in this film are brilliant. Though the Slo Mo drug was primarily used to jus up the 3D fit, it was also used to supremely violent effect by director Pete Travis when the two Judges storm an apartment in the tower block and take out a number of Mama's henchmen with guns - now you know what happens when a bullet tears through the side of someone's face at high speed in slow motion! *strokes cheek fretfully* And of course, Mama taking out a whole level of the tower block whilst the judges try to escape the line of fire is pretty spectacular. Considering this was made for £45m, it's a really smart opening film for a franchise. There's a sneaky peak of Mega City One in the first 10 minutes and the Hall of Justice, but all action is confined to the Peach Trees tower block (love that name!) to keep the costs down. But this device did little to hinder the film's impact as the story was well constructed to be a balance of suspense and action within claustrophobic, terror laden corridors and an introduction to the character of Dredd and his personality, as well as an insight into his daily life as a Judge, through the eyes of rookie Anderson.
The cast very strong indeed. Urban a great presence as Dredd - even though he's all chin he commands the screen. Thirlby was good - not great, but her character does take a while to get going. The psychic abilities with their wobbly glowy effect every few minutes became a bit tiresome. Heady so, so good as the soulless and dead eyed villain, taking her wicked potential with Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones to a whole new level of cruel brutality with Mama.
The story is very well done - particularly homing Anderson's character from meek and hesitant newbie to powerful and decisive towards the end: "are you ready? You look ready". Nice touch when she realises the woman who has just helped her is the wife of the man she has just killed - her first kill as well. But if there's damning faults it's the dialogue being so ropey in parts - I expected more from a screenplay written by Alex Garland, who has adapted The Beach and Never Let Me Go. Whether he was keeping true to the comics and Dredd genuinely is that stilted, but 'poignant' lines that he growls such as "interesting" "I was waiting for her shoot you" and even "yeaaaaaah" as he finishes off Mama at the end just had me in fits of giggles. Not quite surpassing the heavy-footed action genre into something a little more sophisticated and complex just yet it seems.
Dredd is getting a slightly higher cheese rating for the Thirlby, but also because I'm excited to see what can be done with the sequel(s) and exploring the world of Mega City One. I think the franchise has so much potential, and after topping the UK Box Office in its week of release should hopefully secure itself a bigger budget for the next outing. It made me think a lot of Hellboy actually - and look how that progressed in scale and vision in its next trip.
A lot like a first person shooter video game on the big screen, but unabashed enjoyable fodder. Can easily see myself watching again on late night TV in a few years time. Also, can haz Olivia Thirlby's hair plz? What pixie wisps!