Friday, 15 February 2013

Dredd (2012)

I used to read quite a bit of 2000 AD as a kid back in the late 80s and early 90s, so imagine my crushing disappointment when as a 15 year old I paid good (pocket) money to see the previous big screen adaptation of Judge Dredd starring Sly Stallone. What a load of shite!  Mind, given the only alternative at the time was Casper, the disappointment was somewhat tempered. 

It is with some hesitancy therefore that I approached Dredd, though not that I wasn't keen to watch it. I was just a bit concerned they'd knacker it up like before. Anyway tonight (fuck off Valentine's Day, I'm single and I'm misanthropic) I finally got around to watching it and I am happy to report that Dredd captures the feel of the original comic strip material rather well. By that I mean it is ruthless, gruesome, sardonic and with a strong dose of bleak dystopian futuristic satire that is inherently a British take on a wasted America.

I have to hand it to scriptwriter Alex Garland (the author of the fabulous novel The Beach turned screenwriter with Danny Boyle's Sunshine) I believe some Dredd heads were initially disappointed to learn he was turning in an entirely original tale, but truth be told, I'm glad he did. By taking the old Wild West cliche of a Sheriff impeded in bringing his charge to justice by the townsfolk/gang members/corrupt colleagues all turning against him - a cliche already given a suitably dystopian take thanks to John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 - Garland has not only presented us with something memorable, iconic and timeless, but also something that truly depicts the whole genre of 2000 AD's hero in a suitably successful light.

It's a film that also looks utterly right too, thanks to a great bleak Mega City One landscape and a cast one never for a moment suspects as being anything other than the character they are playing. (which is largely where Stallone's effort went incredibly wrong) Thank God Karl Urban kept his helmet on I say! And casting Wood Harris, formerly The Wire's Avon Barksdale, was inspired. I was also impressed by Olivia Thirlby as Anderson, the rookie under Dredd's wing, who has as much emphasis and a part to play as Dredd himself (another genius piece from Garland) Though I have to say, as good as Lena Headey is as the villain of the piece, even with a facial scar and being  horribly cruel she is still rather sexy!

The score is also rather good. Paul Leonard Morgan has a long and respected history in composing the music to a wealth of British TV drama and he doesn't lower his game here, even though he's largely required to produce a variation on a pulsating throbbing and meaty 'atmospheric'. There are moments however were he, naturally, emulates a similar mood from the excellent Blade Runner score by Vangelis. I was quite tickled to hear Matt Berry's Snuffbox pop up a couple of times on the soundtrack though!

If I have one complaint it is that occasionally Pete Travis' direction incorporates some very odd shots; seriously sometimes I was wondering if I was watching it in the right aspect ratio, it is that strange. But overall he handles the material incredibly well.

A great movie for a night in with a few beers. It's good to see something finally do Judge Dredd justice. I just hope Garland gets his wish to write the trilogy he wants to do. Given what was on offer here, I certainly won't have any hesitancy in seeing a sequel.

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