Dredd 3D / Cert: 18 / Director: Pete Travis / Screenplay: Alex Garland / Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey / Release Date: September 7th
Begone, the ghost of Stallone! Judge Dredd returns to the big screen and this time the character has finally been done justice - the helmet stays on and there is a distinct lack of needless backstory (and no Rob Schneider to boot!). America has fallen into waste, and only Mega City One, holding 800 million citizens and spreading from Boston to New York, still stands against the apocalyptic backdrop of the Cursed Earth outside the walls.
The movie plays out in a similar vein to 2001’s Training Day with a bit of The Raid thrown in, with Dredd (Urban) being partnered up with rookie Anderson (Thirlby) on her assessment day. By day’s end, he will get final say on whether she becomes a fully-fledged Judge or not – and it doesn’t start well when he learns that she only got this far because of her psychic abilities, having narrowly failed the entrance test. To Dredd, a failure is a failure, whether it’s by the biggest or smallest margin.
Whilst carrying out what appears to be a routine drug bust after a triple homicide at a tower block called Peach Trees, Dredd and Anderson find themselves locked in with no chance of back-up or escape. Ma-Ma (Headey) runs the 200-floor block with a vicious iron fist, commanding her gang to kill the two Judges that have dared to infiltrate her little world. She is pushing a new drug substance called Slo-Mo, which gives addicts the feeling that everything has slowed down to a fraction of its normal speed, and she’ll be damned if anything as trivial as the law is going to stand in her way. As Dredd and Anderson fight their way to the top of the tower, we are rewarded with some of the most violent and brutal scenes we’ve seen in a release of this calibre. The camera doesn’t shy away when bodies are being flayed by gunfire from mounted cannons, nor when shoot-outs occur when characters are high on the new drug. Many of the highlights come during these scenes, playing out like a version of ‘bullet-time’ but breaking away from the old set routine and trying something new. There are lashings of blood and gore on show, but at no time does it come across as gratuitous.
Visually, there are several good uses of the 3D throughout, and some vertigo inducing scenes of Peach Trees – you may feel like you’re about to fall out of your seat. The characters are also well cast, Urban delivering a completely deadpan performance - his voice never goes up or down, even when he uses his catchphrase, “I am the law” – and Thirlby is perfectly cast as Anderson, looking puny next to Dredd, but harnessing her psychic abilities at the most opportunistic moments. The camaraderie between the two is perfectly pitched. Even Headey, definitely not looking her best due to some wonderfully nasty scarring make-up, plays Ma-Ma with a quiet undertone of menace.
Tremendously violent, brutal, loud and unashamedly British, the movie is the ultimate antithesis to 2012’s summer of superheroes. Dredd has no powers except for an unwavering belief that the law must be obeyed and justice served. Don’t get caught up in the petty squabbles about whether the uniform or the Lawmaster bikes look right. Instead, go and support an independent British genre film that deserves your time and hard earned money.
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10