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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
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Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Karl Urban
Olivia Thirlby
Lena Headey
Wood Harris.
Directors
Pete Travis.
Screenwriters
Alex Garland.
Running Time
95 minutes

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Dredd
He is the law, apparently


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Plot
Judge Dredd (Urban), Mega-City One’s top law enforcer, is reluctantly paired with psychic rookie Anderson (Thirlby) as her assessor for the day – a day that quickly sees them trapped in Peach Trees, a 200-storey megablock, by psycho Ma-Ma (Headey), who, with her hordes of minions, is dealing in a new drug called Slo-mo. Their only way out: up.


Review
Dredd
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Two long shadows fall over Dredd, the second attempt to get 2000AD’s gnarly, grizzled super-cop onto the big screen. One of them, as you might expect, is Danny Cannon’s 1995’s Judge Dredd, the Sylvester Stallone vehicle that looked the part, but misunderstood the fundamentals right down to the inclusion of Rob Schneider as comic relief.

The second, though, is somewhat unexpected. In an ideal world, we’d be able to see and assess films in a bubble, but this isn’t an ideal world. Just as it was virtually impossible to watch Prometheus without unbidden thoughts of Alien, so it goes with Dredd and The Raid, Gareth Evans’ blistering Indonesian action flick which, in a perfect storm of horrible timing, has virtually the same plot, right down to the chief baddie putting out a hit on the hero via building-wide intercom.

This wouldn’t be to Dredd’s detriment if The Raid hadn’t a) got there first and b) been the best action film in years. And so, as Dredd and Anderson tiptoe down dark corridors, where danger lurks around every corner, or bullet-bludgeon their way through Ma-Ma’s seemingly endless waves of expendable henchmen, it’s hard not to compare and contrast with Evans’ movie, where similar situations led to action that was vital, insanely violent and full of variety. Dredd retains the extraordinary violence (flesh pierces rippling bare flesh in loving slo-mo, a machine gun reduces a head to a pulp, and bodies spiral through 200 storeys before splatting), but the action is rather more circumspect and workmanlike – there are no dizzying camera moves, no sense of building momentum or mounting danger.

That, overall, Dredd manages to obliterate the memory of Judge Dredd (and to a lesser extent, The Raid) is largely attributable to one of the things it gets absolutely, incontrovertibly right: Dredd himself. John Wagner’s creation is a tricky one to represent on the big screen: dour, one-note, humourless, dedicated to upholding the law above all other things, he’s Dirty Harry wearing fascism like his gold badge. The obvious temptation is to judge the Judge and soften him, to make him glib, to introduce back story and a sense that there’s a living, breathing, caring, sharing human being under there.

Dredd’s director, Pete Travis, and screenwriter Alex Garland, the driving force behind the reboot, say “drokk that!”, and transplant Dredd straight from the comics onto the screen. This Dredd is a deadpan delight - he doesn’t grow as a person and he doesn’t crack wise. In fact, the movie generates its few laughs from his sheer intractability – a grunt here, a monosyllabic response there. It’s a role that has to be handled with care, and luckily Urban is excellent. Unlike Stallone, the helmet stays on (in a cute touch, we first see him from behind without the headgear) and, without recourse to his eyes, Urban is forced to give good lower head, leading with the manliest movie chin this side of Kirk Douglas, and growling his lines in an Eastwood-meets-Pazuzu rasp that just about manages to stay the right side of tough-guy parody.

With Dredd unchanging, and Lena Headey’s quietly chilling villainess, Ma-Ma, proving equally monomaniacal, the emotional arc is given to Thirlby, whose engaging Anderson has to grow up quickly as the bullets start flying.

The focus on a small core of characters (including, happily, The Wire’s Avon Barksdale, Wood Harris, as Headey’s right-hand dealer), and the decision to restrict the action to Peach Trees is a byproduct of Dredd’s relatively miniscule (for a comic-book adaptation) budget. Dredd doesn’t have the capital to do an enormous Dark Knight Rises-style denouement, with the big action set-piece, involving Ma-Ma firing a cannon even more dangerous to Dredd than Danny, coming halfway through. Impressively, though, it never looks bargain basement – the murky green/brown colour scheme, along with the brief opening in Mega-City One (Johannesburg with some CG enhancements), clearly show that this post-apocalyptic world is rundown, seedy, gone to pot.

And that murk allows Travis to escape occasionally into the (literal) Slo-mo sequences. The drug, which makes users perceive time at one per cent of its normal speed, isn’t just an excuse for Peckinpah apeing, but for genuinely surreal splashes of heightened colour that, thankfully, don’t outstay their welcome. The film’s use of 3D is often excellent (including the credits) and it really comes to life in the Slo-mo scenes – Headey’s introduction, swirling rainbow-coloured droplets of bath water around in a drug-induced haze, will make this – ironically - a stoner favourite. Hey, we’re not judging.

There’s certainly enough here, despite the clunky action and oppressively dour tone, to make the prospect of a sequel intriguing. With a bigger budget, Dredd could get to play in a bigger sandpit. There’s a whole Cursed Earth out there, just waiting to be explored. But, if it doesn’t come to that, this is an honourable attempt at giving an iconic character the adaptation he deserved. Just don’t double-bill it with The Raid.


Verdict
There was much to dread about this new iteration of Dredd, but it’s a solid, occasionally excellent take on the character, with Urban’s chin particularly impressive.


Reviewed by Chris Hewitt

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Dredd
Empire Star Rating

RE: Dredd

Best ever review of Dredd: vie ripped off The Raid. It's not a bad film but it's lacking the creativeness and soul the Raid had Raid wasn't even a very good movie to begin withstealing plot points.:D] Yeah, he's right. If you're gonna copy from other films and least copy from Carry On Camping or Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World. ... More

Posted by manwihtheplan at 01:17, 04 November 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Dredd

I grew up with the comics as well, but I don't boast the background knowledge of Chris and I'm not a fanboy ! However, as I said earlier in this thread, this movie needs to be judged on its own merit. This was a great movie, unashamedly fun, and the writers, makers need to be applauded for stripping the film back, not filling it with Dredd gimmickry. They made a basic character movie with the budget they had and they pulled it off. It was entertaining and in some places breathtaking in it... More

Posted by Happy Shrapnel at 08:18, 01 November 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Dredd

Whether the Dark judges would work or not depends very much on the whether there is a sequel to the film anyway, but, hell, if you can have psi-cops, already a supernatural element, you can introduce Dark Judges in the third film, after a more sprawling Mega city one set sequel opening up the world. It's all about the next challenge presented to the protagonist. Make him the law in the city, then go beyond the situation his role gives him the power to be in judgement on. Easy ... More

Posted by jobloffski at 23:04, 31 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Dredd

Depends how they're done, I suppose. Which is why I think there's a distinct possibility there a sly bit of setting up/wishful thinking going on with those i] judges... Garland has made no secret of the fact he would like to do Judge Death at some point. He has also mentioned The Cursed Earth. So how would you feel about dinosaurs...? S: Whether it's Cal or The Cursed Earth next (assuming there is a next), I'd bet my right nut that Chopper'll be Dredd's sidekick in a sequel - probably in ... More

Posted by chris kilby at 17:25, 31 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Dredd

Good review Chris - but I really don't think the Dark Judges work in that world developed within the film. They feel like a step too far. ... More

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 17:08, 31 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Dredd

Doesn't everyone? Thanks, BTW. ... More

Posted by chris kilby at 17:03, 31 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Dredd

Wow Chris, superb write up...agree with everything you say. ... More

Posted by Happy Shrapnel at 17:00, 31 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Dredd

Judge Dredd was born of the same political and economic turmoil in the 1970s which produced The Sex Pistols and Margaret Thatcher. And Dredd’s always had an anarchic, punk sensibility (black leather and chains) which has always marked him out as a uniquely on. Which is why the thrill-sucker infested Stallone film was such a miserable failure. It just didn’t get Dredd’s irony and satire. Strip him of that and he’s just a fascist. Like Batman. Which is why reddmericaners felt the need to set... More

Posted by chris kilby at 16:50, 31 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Raid looked crap anyway

L: manwihtheplan give a monkey's about box office receipts, this was a great movie, loved it.air enough! 'm trying to keep this thread going for some perverse reason. If no-one posts here the thread will disappear down the board and be lonely. I don't think I'll be able to keep posting until the DVD and Blu-ray release. Sauchieboy used to post a lot. He's a bit of a Dredd expert. He should post his detailed review. ote] This is just the review thread though, Dredd has a discussio... More

Posted by rich at 00:46, 12 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Raid looked crap anyway

give a monkey's about box office receipts, this was a great movie, loved it.air enough! 'm trying to keep this thread going for some perverse reason. If no-one posts here the thread will disappear down the board and be lonely. I don't think I'll be able to keep posting until the DVD and Blu-ray release. Sauchieboy used to post a lot. He's a bit of a Dredd expert. He should post his detailed review. ... More

Posted by manwihtheplan at 23:52, 11 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Raid looked crap anyway

I don't give a monkey's about box office receipts, this was a great movie, loved it. ... More

Posted by Happy Shrapnel at 11:50, 11 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Raid looked crap anyway

L: manwihtheplan Dredd 3D's box office take looks worse than we thought (and it was pretty grim to start with!). The UK distributor of Dredd 3D, Entertainment, paid $7 million for the UK distribution rights: ales included a $7 million deal with British distributor Entertainment Film Distributors." - Wikipedia (assuming this is accurate)7 million is £4.3 million. According to the box office stats, Dredd 3D has taken £4.3 million at the UK box office which is the exact amount E... More

Posted by BatSpider at 11:46, 11 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Raid looked crap anyway

Dredd 3D's box office take looks worse than we thought (and it was pretty grim to start with!). The UK distributor of Dredd 3D, Entertainment, paid $7 million for the UK distribution rights: ales included a $7 million deal with British distributor Entertainment Film Distributors." - Wikipedia (assuming this is accurate)7 million is £4.3 million. According to the box office stats, Dredd 3D has taken £4.3 million at the UK box office which is the exact amount Entertainment paid to secur... More

Posted by manwihtheplan at 10:24, 11 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Raid looked crap anyway

there is a flaw in your argument and it is "Taken 2". This piece of cinematic garbage has taken a shedload of cash at the US Box Office. Why? Because the US like what they like and are unwilling to try something that isn't homegrown or US-owned. It's why a great foreign film has to be remade for the US market.he success of Taken 2 isn't hard to understand. The first Taken was a big hit so there's a strong fanbase for a sequel. The first Judge Dredd film underperformed at the US box offic... More

Posted by manwihtheplan at 12:16, 10 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Raid looked crap anyway

hahaha! ... More

Posted by SwozTheRevenge at 07:39, 10 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Raid looked crap anyway

L: manwihtheplan Great news for all Judge Dredd fans. The Judge Minty fan film is being shown in November. inty Showings for November Judge William Minty has spent his entire adult life policing the violent streets of Mega-City One - and now he's slowing down. When a lapse of judgement almost ends his life, he knows that it's time to quit. He can choose to teach in the Academy, or he can leave the city and walk alone out into the anarchy of the Cursed Earth, taking law to th... More

Posted by BatSpider at 01:10, 10 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Raid looked crap anyway

L: Happy Shrapnel Isn't Ma Ma and actual villan from the original comics ? ot as far as I'm aware, but here's her origin - http://www.scribd.com/doc/104439907/DREDD-MA-MA ... More

Posted by SwozTheRevenge at 15:16, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Raid looked crap anyway

Isn't Ma Ma and actual villan from the original comics ? ... More

Posted by Happy Shrapnel at 14:41, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Raid looked crap anyway

L: manwihtheplan It's easy to prove how poor this film is. The villain in Dredd 3D is a hooker. Sheesh, 35 years of colourful, weird, Judge Dredd villains and the best they come up with for the film is a prossy? Talk about short-changing Judge Dredd fans. Batman fans get the Joker, Bane, Cat Woman etc in those films, Spider-man gets Doctor Octopus and the Lizard and us Dredd fans wait for this so-called 'faithful Judge Dredd film' and we get Dredd vs a.............. ho... More

Posted by SwozTheRevenge at 14:32, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Raid looked crap anyway

Bloody triple post AGAIN... ... More

Posted by SwozTheRevenge at 14:32, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Raid looked crap anyway

Bloody triple post AGAIN... ... More

Posted by SwozTheRevenge at 14:32, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Dredd

L: evilpickle4 heplan think there is a flaw in your argument and it is "Taken 2". This piece of cinematic garbage has taken a shedload of cash at the US Box Office. Why? Because the US like what they like and are unwilling to try something that isn't homegrown or US-owned. It's why a great foreign film has to be remade for the US market. sp; Er.. would that be Taken 2, written produced and directed by Frenchmen? ... More

Posted by Invader_Ace at 12:42, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Dredd

heplan think there is a flaw in your argument and it is "Taken 2". This piece of cinematic garbage has taken a shedload of cash at the US Box Office. Why? Because the US like what they like and are unwilling to try something that isn't homegrown or US-owned. It's why a great foreign film has to be remade for the US market. They don't own Dredd and they don't understand the character because it's not Batman. As much as I enjoyed the Dark Knight series, I did think that Dredd was a much mor... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by evilpickle4 at 12:30, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Dredd

My last post about why (or one of the main reasons why) Dredd 3D flopped at the international box office. A review of Dredd 3D: get me wrong, I like a movie with high body count as much as the next person – Perhaps a better way to put it is I don’t mind the body count if it serves a purpose like the fast paced Bourne movies (at least the ones with Matt Damon ). What I do not find entertaining is when the high body count is the entire point of the movie; the result of a script that was... More

Posted by manwihtheplan at 11:01, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


5 stars!

Okay, so the plot was similar to The Raid, but guess what, that film was crap - crap action, crap cardboard cut-out characters and so boring I didn't particularly care to see it through to the ending. Dredd on the other hand had me on the edge of my seat the whole film. Fellow Kiwi Karl Urban was spot on as Dredd. Thirlby was excellent as Anderson and I'm going back to the cinema to see it for a second time. Headey was unrecognisably hideous as Ma-Ma - a great turn from her. This film will def... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Alcy at 20:59, 08 October 2012 | Report This Post


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