After a summer of rather impressive comic book movies with the excellent The Avengers and the fantastic The Dark Knight Rises, the season finishes off with a cult favourite, DREDD or DREDD 3D to give the film its full name.
This is one of the comic books that I am not over familiar with. I am aware of the comic book that the film is based on. Apart from the fact that it was attempted to be transferred to the big screen in the 90’s with Sylvester Stallone in the lead role, this is a new world to me.
What drew me to the film was the fact that it had the fantastic Lena Headey, who plays Cesrei Lannister in Game of Thrones. Again she plays the villain of the piece, so I looked forward to seeing her strut her stuff on the big screen. The film also looked visually impressive, with a bit of a dark and gritty feel to it. With memories of another 18 certificate movie that I really loved, Blade, I sat in the cinema with some reasonable expectations.
The movie starts off with the title character zipping through the streets, chasing some drug dealers, in what appears to be a futuristic version of Chicago or New York. The action slows down during the chase to give the viewer an idea of what this drug is doing to the user. It is very pretty, but it does take you out of the action. In fact this method of slow motion is used quite a bit throughout the film at the most inopportune times.
The plot is about Dredd trying to survive in a large tower block, overseen by Headey’s character Ma-Ma. From what I could gather, these large tower blocks are like communities or countries.
The purpose of the law enforcement, known as Judges is to act as Judge, Jury and Executioner. On this assignment Dredd is trying to shut down a drug ring, run by Ma-Ma and prevent her merchandise from spreading throughout the city. With him is a new recruit with a special ability. She is psychic, which comes in handy a couple of times as they fight for their survival.
This should be the set up for some good old fashioned cat and mouse games. The building is secure, Ma-Ma has instructed the people who co-ordinate the judges that they are just having a practice run for an emergency protocol. (To be honest I can’t remember the exact wording, but it is like locking-down the building). No help can be received from outside, so it really is just Dredd and the new recruit against this organised crime gang.
Everything points to a high octane thrill ride, yet it just fails to hit that mark where it could be amazing. Partly it’s because at times it seemed that Dredd and Anderson, the new recruit, where just trudging around the same halls, time and time again. There was no real sense of risk or threat to either of them. What could have been atmospheric just came across as a run-down block of flats in any generic town or city.
That’s not to say there weren’t any really some high octane action sequences, because there was. Two stand out scenes were when Ma-Ma and her gang open fire across the tower block with numerous machine guns at Dredd and the other is the fight scene in the meth lab. With action sequences like this, you quickly realise that the trudging along the hallways is just a means to get to the next set piece.
It’s a shame, because the actor who plays Dredd, Karl Urban, is brilliant in the role. He comes across as a take no prisoners, everything by the book type of guy. When he orders Anderson to pass sentence on one of the goons, you see his unflinching resolve. He feels nothing. This is just a job to him. If a decent plot could be constructed for any sequel, then I would go to watch it just to see what Urban can do.
In an attempt to show the more human and compassionate side, we have the psychic Anderson. Now I’m not sure if it was the actress or how the character was written, but for some reason, I didn’t like this character. As I have said above, the character of Anderson was, in my opinion, purely added to this story to show how this black and white system was flawed. This was attempted by showing that the goon that Anderson executed had a family and that he was more than just a hired goon. For me it came off way to cheesy and I just didn’t buy it at all.
As for our villain of the piece, Headey’s Ma-Ma? What a colossal waste of a brilliant actress! I’ve seen her play the Lady Macbethian character of Cesrei in Game of Thrones. If they had just made Ma-Ma a smidgen as devious and evil as Cesri, I would have been happier. For a villain, the character of Ma-Ma was very underdeveloped. When she finally did get her comeuppance, I merely shrugged. It was expected and though the graphics and special affects were nice to look at, that was all I felt. To have a good villain in any form of entertainment, be it TV movie or book, you need to have an emotional connection. With Ma-Ma there wasn’t any and it was a shame because the hints of backstory scattered throughout the film showed great potential.
For a movie that was made on a fraction of the budget that the other two monster comic book movies had at their disposal, it’s a pretty good shot. How faithful it is to the comics, I can’t say. For me, this was still very much a style over substance movie. Not one I would say go and see at the cinema, wait for the DVD.