PLOT: Wednesday night at Comic Con 2012, Lionsgate kicked things off with the brutal new action flick starring Karl Urban as the title role of DREDD. Is the latest attempt to bring 2000Ad’s super cop to the big screen a success? Read on…
REVIEW: Karl Urban is DREDD and he kicks some serious ass. In this re-imagining of the iconic character “Judge Dredd” the actor is an absolute perfect fit. Only once do we see him without the mask, yet it is only his shadow that is visible. After that the helmet stays on as he makes some trouble for those who dare try and go after him. The best news is that fans of the comic, as well as fans of extreme R-rated action flicks have something to get excited about. The mayhem on-screen will please even the most hardcore fans of gruesome and bloody action. Director Pete Travis gives this post-apocalyptic superhero movie an edge that is rarely seen in your local multiplex.
In the near and grim future, police officers have been replaced by men who can simply enact justice on the guilty. The movie introduces us to DREDD (Urban), a committed judge, jury and executioner. He is assigned to work with a young trainee named Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thrilby), a mutant with unparalleled psychic abilities. Those in charge hope her powers can help in their fight against crime. While they are on a routine investigation, they discover a dangerous criminal who calls herself Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). This bitch of a crime boss – a nearly unrecognizable Headey - is creating a deadly drug called “SLO-MO” which slows down the user’s perception of time. The basic plot has the two Judge’s trying to escape with a witness to Ma-Ma’s crimes before she can have them killed. Much like THE RAID, the two must fend off a number of bad guys in order to survive in a building under lock-down.
Much of what you see in DREDD may be familiar as post-apocalypse is rarely viewed as a happy time, yet director Pete Travis adds his own visual flair that makes this stand out. The 3D is put to good use especially within the context of the SLO-MO drug. It is most creative when it shows the effect on those taking it. In one scene, Judge Dredd shoots up a room full of people who have been using and the bullets rip through them at a disturbingly slow pace. This is groovy and gory stuff, and when you add the 3D element to that you have some pretty f*cked up scenes. This is an impressively good-looking feature that only occasionally suffers from not so perfect CGI effects.
While DREDD is extremely – and creatively – violent, it has moments of fun that cannot be ignored. There is humor here that keeps you smiling as heads are being smashed or blown up. It also helps that both Urban and Thirlby share an impressive chemistry together. And then of course there is Lena Headey. As Ma-Ma, Headey creates such a vicious and despicable monster yet she rarely raises her voice. Her cut up face reveals an all too human beast that is willing to destroy anybody that she feels is a threat. Sure it is not surprising that Ms. Headey is a terrific actress, but she is so damn good here that you nearly forget that it was her and not some psychotic drug dealer looking to break DREDD into bits.
As good as DREDD may be, somewhere in the middle of the film it tends to lag a bit. You’d think with all these guys going after them – thanks to Ma-Ma threatening everyone in the building – that they’d have a little tougher time than they do. Yet this is a minor complaint. From the casting to the hypnotic score by Paul Leonard-Morgan, to the copious amounts of crushed heads, this is a superhero flick that has balls and then some. DREDD is a perfect answer to the more mainstream and safe action films that are usually playing at a theatre near you.