-Review by Paul Ewbank-
Getting to see a film about which I know nothing beforehand is a rare pleasure these days. Cinema/DVD prices being what they are I am no longer able to go see a movie just for the sake of seeing a movie; it has to be something I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy to get me to spend money on it. Even watching other people’s DVDs I usually have some idea of what a film is going to be about due to being a massive nerd and spending way too much time watching online film reviews and the like. And yet for whatever reason Dredd completely slipped under my radar and I settled down to watch it this evening with a cup of tea and a can of 8.5% lager knowing only that it was based on an old comic hero and was probably not going to be much good. The fact that I didn’t even touch the beer should tell you that, much to my surprise, Dredd not only held my attention but totally sucked me into its dark, ultra-violent world for its entire run time.
My thoughts in the opening scenes went something like this. Opening shot of a post apocalyptic wasteland. Great, I can review it on here. Mega city spanning the entire eastern seaboard. Um, that’s kinda like the titular Sprawl from the Sprawl Trilogy. Gruff, gritty voiceover about justice and judgement and stuff. Isn’t that Eomer? Man, he kicks ass. Ok, I can roll with this. Sheesh, this is violent. Ooh, a blonde girl in a leather suit with psychic powers? I can definitely roll with this. Wait, did that crime lord lady with the scars just say ‘skin them’? Oh. Yes she did. Man, that’s nasty.
This pattern of having my attention shoved from one badass, bloody visual to another continued for the whole film. There’s little in the way of plot or characterisation to distract you, so sit back and enjoy the carnage, baby. Mega City 1 is infested with crime and violence, combatted by the brutal, authoritarian law enforcement tactics of the Judges. Judge Dredd and rookie psychic judge Anderson get sent to a two hundred story skyscraper to check out a triple murder case. Turns out the killings were carried out by ruthless drug lord MaMa and her army of minions, who manage to use the power of computers to seal off the entire tower with the judges inside. With no way out, their only choice is to climb to the top and take out every bad guy along the way. Simple plotting at its best. The film is essentially one long action scene but it never gets boring thanks to high levels of gore, a pounding metal soundtrack and Dredd’s ultra deadpan one-liners. This guy is the walking embodiment of gallows humour, and he pulls it off without ever uttering (well, growling) more than about three words at a time. He’s like batman, without the whole ‘no killing’ thing.
The action is tense, well staged and there’s enough variation and moments of jaw-dropping badassery to last a lifetime. There’s definitely a cyberpunk feel to the whole thing too, and the visuals are great, especially the effects used to show time being slowed by mind-altering drugs. The performances are solid; Karl Urban manages to look suitably pissed off throughout and Lena Heady is terrifying as the vicious, psychopathic drug lord. Other than that, there isn’t really much to say. If you like violent action, lots of guns, explosions and drugs, then go nuts; this is pure trash, but it’s entertaining, intelligently made trash, which is far too rare. If not, then there’s literally nothing else on show here, so go watch Downton Abbey, you ponce.