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Monday, September 24, 2012

(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express, on 22 September 2012, retrieved from

Cast: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, Wood Harris
Director: Pete Travis
Rating: 3.5 stars
There are some of us whose childhoods were sullied by a terrible movie called Judge Dredd, starring Sylvester Stallone. When we grew older, we were further messed up by the discovery that the lines curled out by Stallone’s wooden Dredd, played like every other character he’s essayed, had their origins in a comic book series that began before we were born. Those of us can draw succour from this new interpretation of Dredd, a film that pares the story down to what it really is – an action movie free from the trappings of sentiment and logic.
Because, let’s be honest. We all know a film whose locations are ‘Cursed Earth’ and ‘Mega-City One’, whose tough-guy hero is ‘Dredd’, whose villain is ‘Ma-Ma’, and which documents a war on a drug called ‘Slo-Mo’ has to be unimaginative. But Dredd (3D) is one of those films that shows us unimaginative fare can still be enjoyable, provided the 3D effects don’t stop at ammunition heading right for us. Of course, it helps if you’re into blood spurting and squirting all over the place. It also helps when the bloodshed prompts parents who’ve brought their spawn to an adult movie to take their wailing kids out of the cinema.
Back to the movie. You don’t expect any film spawned by a dystopian graphic novel whose eponymous hero is a masked-but-licensedvigilante to bother with plot or character development. Naturally, the setting is a wasteland where futuristic technology and rigid lawmakers infuse a sort of sameness into society. We enter the story, as usual, when a villain’s wreaking havoc.
In a film of this ilk, some things are a given:
  • Everyone wears stupid costumes and tries to look tough
  • The head of operations is a woman, and executor of operations is a man
  • The executor is accompanied by a woman whom he may or may not kiss at the end
  • Everyone wants to kill the lead pair
  • At some point, we want everyone to succeed
  • There’s lots of gore and gunfire

Here’s where Dredd scores. The 800 million strong megacity is so intricately represented that it’s completely believable the project was shot using 3D cameras on practical sets. Though most of the action happens inside a single building, we enter it through a world that seems so real we want a sequel, just so we can explore it. The filmmakers know they must capitalise on the scope of the 3D camera, and we find ourselves pulled into every experience in this film – including a rather enjoyable virtual narcotic trip.
Karl Urban – or more specifically, his jaw – looks the part of Dredd, the Street Judge with a firm hand, golden heart and penchant for growling out his lines. Lena Headey, whom I last recall seeing as a scantily-clad queen in 300, looks as sinister as she can with weird facial scars and a name like ‘Ma-Ma’.
A lot of complicated action choreography later, you reflect that the movie would have been over in five minutes if the psychics had used their power with some forethought. Ironic, huh?
The Verdict: Dredd (3D) is a happily unimaginative action film which is redeemed by its exploitation of 3D.


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