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Dredd (2012)

by on 2013/01/23

dredd_2012“I expected more from you.”

* * *

Let’s take an inventory here. Dystopic future – check. Flinty action hero – check. Queen Gorgo or as she’s otherwise known – Lena Headey – from 300 as a dead-calm, scar-faced crime boss named Ma-Ma – check. Balletic violence, beautifully realized and filmed – check. Movie based on a comic – check.

This should have been a recipe for pure delight for me. But it was not, and I’m not entirely sure why.

I think I’m one of the very few people in the world who liked the 1995 Judge Dredd movie. Yes, it was cartoonish, campy, Stallone took off his helmet (which was strictly against creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra established guidelines …against the law in fact) and it had a Rob Schneider (50 First Dates) in it.

But I liked it, rather a lot.

Now maybe I was tired when I saw Dredd. Maybe I was cranky. Maybe I didn’t have my juice. (Well, my straw broke off in the carton… that’s not the point!).

The verdict is inescapable. Dredd didn’t delight me.  I kind of love Karl Urban (Red). When I first saw him in Doom, I thought he looked so perfectly like the little Doom soldier face that stared up at me all those years.

I admired Urban and director Pete Travis’ courage to stick with the idea of leaving Judge Dredd’s helmet on through the whole movie. Though I could have sworn Urban was doing a little Stallone with his mouth at times, affecting jowls with his omnipresent grimace. Unfortunately, the result is a complete lack of connection with the helmet-headed protagonist.

No eyes, no caring, apparently.

Urban’s sidekick in this installment is Olivia Thirlby (Juno) as Cassandra Anderson, a judge in training. Anderson is the blonde and bright-eyed rookie to grim monolithic Judge Dredd. They are hot on the trail of some criminal types in a big, awful apartment block called the Peach Trees. Things are bigger in the Mega-City One and the 200-storey is the huge environment in which the action plays out.

However, quiet, circumspect interior drama this isn’t.

Skinned gang members are thrown over the Peach Trees’ stratosphere-scraping balconies. Ma-Ma is a former prostitute who “feminized” the pimp who disfigured her face with her own teeth. Yup.

I have to say, Headey is genuinely scary as the queen of the drug-dealers. The drug of choice in this environment is called Slo-Mo. And the effects – slow motion – are used to demonstrate what a junkie sees. It is all very compelling – if a tad overused.

All good so far, then there was a truly unexpected wrinkle. First let me say, there’s nothing wrong with Thirlby’s performance in this film. She’s charming. My issue is more that she’s …a …wait for it ..helmet-less psychic.

Cassandra… get it? Ever since Deanna Troi’s prescient warning, “Captain, I sense hostility,” when the ruddy alien vehicle is firing on the Enterprise, I’ve feared the empath and the psychic in my entertainment.

The milky, water-coloured …impressions of Cassandra’s psychic visions, slowed things down (already slowed by the Slo-Mo) to a sleepwalker’s lurch.

Maybe I’ll like Dredd the next time round. After I had my juice.

* * *

95 minutes

Rated R for strong bloody violence, language, drug use and some sexual content

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