Is Dredd good enough to stand alone, or it is another cheap reboot?
Remember when last week we complained that the remake of Total Recall was a watered-down, generic CGI sci-fart which lacked the brutal brilliance of its 1990 counterpart? While this holds true, anyone who was disappointed can take solace in the fact that Dredd more than makes up for it.
Made for $45 million, which is fish food compared to the $125 million that was spent on Total Recall 2012, Dredd lives up to its 18 certificate with unpleasantly balletic slow motion violence and no shyness when it comes to expletives. And at 95 minutes it hangs around just long enough to use its arsenal of ideas without fatiguing the audience, which makes the 118 minutes of its sister sci-fi reboot look like a real slog.
The back story stays true to the comic book world from which it is adapted. In a post-apocalyptic future, most of humanity is confined to a sprawling city, outside of which is a fallout-ravaged desert. While traditional justice systems have crumbled, there are now gun-toting Judges on hand to act as marshals of the law, with the prerogative to pass sentence and execute criminals without ever showing them the inside of a courtroom.
Karl Urban plays Judge Dredd, a swaggeringly gruff neo-cop who’s sent out on an assessment with psychic rookie Anderson (Olivia Thirlby). They answer a call to deal with three homicides at a 200 storey tower block, but end up trapped inside while resident drug lord Ma-Ma sends her minions to put a stop to their bullet-based deliberations.
Dredd ends up playing out like a cross between The Raid and Die Hard, which means that characters are best established during a screamed conversation mid-gunfight and the claustrophobic funnel of the tower pulls the protagonists ever upwards as the film comes to a climax. There are points when it seems like it might go off on an unnecessarily sentimental tangent, but these potentially emotional subplots are buried before they can even develop, which is a relief given that lesser action films can all too often descend into unwarranted mawkishness.
The action is exhilarating and holds itself just on the right side of gimmicky. The tower in which the judges become stranded is being used to produce a new drug called ‘slow-mo’, which gives the user the impression that time is passing at 1% of its normal speed. This basically means that certain sequences are perceived from the point of view of someone who’s on the drug, allowing graphic and gratifyingly scenes of bullets slamming at a snail’s pace into flabby stomachs and faces.
Dredd is the no-nonsense action film that The Expendables franchise should really aim to be. The fat has been trimmed, the extraneous parts have been removed and it’s fit to have it’s gory 3D tableau displayed in the butcher’s window that is your local cinema. Justice, as they say, is served.