Dredd is a film adaptation of John Wagner’s classic character, first introduced in 2000 AD issue 2 in 1977. The character was previously adapted for the screen in the awful 1995 Sylvester Stallone star vehicle directed by Danny Cannon. This new version is directed by Peter Travis, known for directing Vantage point, and stars Karl Urban as Judge Dredd. The decision to cast Urban was made because a little known actor would be needed as, true to the comic book character, Dredd never takes of his helmet. This, of course, completely rules out the chances of a big star taking the role. The film also has a relatively low $45 million budget and like many cheaper productions was shot mostly in South Africa. During post production rumours arose that Travis had been sacked and that the film’s screenwriter, Alex Garland, had taken over the directors chair, although these proved to be false. Dredd is constantly accused of ripping off The Raid: Redemption as they are both about law enforcement officers trapped in a high-rise building with criminals who want to kill them. The fact is, however, that Dredd entered production long before The Raid. Dredd also has no real stars and is based on a relatively little known franchise, meaning that it probably won’t gross much. The film has also suffered from poor marketing, with there being little promotion whatsoever until shortly before it was released. You would thing that all these problems would result in the film being a complete failure, but rest assured, it absolutely is not.
Dredd is a hugely entertaining action movie which easily holds its own against all the much bigger comic book movies. Urban was brilliant in the lead role, never taking off his helmet, true to character, and playing the lawman not only as a fearless hero but also one having a soft spot and a sense of humour. When he finally delivers Dredd’s famous catchphrase “I am the law”, his delivery is so spot on that it will leave you awed. I really hope that after roles in The Lord of The Rings, Star Trek, Doom, Red, Pathfinder and The Chronicles of Riddick, Dredd will finally give the highly talented Urban his much deserved shot at stardom. Equally impressive is Olivia Thirlby as his psychic partner on her first day on the job, and Lena Heady, known for 300 and Game Of Thrones, as the psychotic drug lord antagonist, Mama.
The plot follows Dredd and his partner through the course of one day as they are forced to fight their way through a skyscraper filled with people trying to kill them. The pacing is exactly right. We are given chances to get to know the characters as well as to experience some thrilling action scenes.
One of the best things about the film is the R rating. Make no mistake, this is a very strong R rating. Blood, limbs, and body parts fly around the screen in no short order. In a world where almost everything on earth in rated PG-13 to secure a larger profit, you have to appreciate that the film makers aimed for the strongest R rating possible.
Dredd is a hugely entertaining thrill ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. According to Alex Garland, it needs to gross over $50 million dollars in the US for a sequel to happen, which is unlikely due to the bad marketing, lack of stars and the fact that the franchise is not massively popular. If a sequel doesn’t happen as a result of these factors, it will be a crying shame.
Review by Davidde Gelmini
Director: Peter Travers
Writer: Alex Garland
Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey