It comes as a relief to have stumbled upon Dredd, its cult comic book following aiding its warm festival reception and propelling it to a wide release last weekend, albeit to disappointingly piss-poor box office results. A frenetically off-the-wall adaptation due largely to its apt use of modern technology, Dredd sports the flat-out best, eye-shattering implementation of 3D you’ll see all year and increasingly creative use of the groundbreaking Phantom Flex HD camera. Focusing (once again) on the popular Judge Dredd character from the pages of “2000 AD,” the powers-that-be have developed a surprisingly sturdy film that defies what it means to be a contemporary sci-fi actioner.
For as shallow as it is, Dredd does a great job in pairing its comic book sensibilities with a live-action visual feast, ensuring that the pre-existing material shines through and illustrates the perils of the seedy, chaotic dystopia that is Mega-City One. Reminiscent of this year’s The Raid: Redemption in its protagonists’ one way in, no way out scenario, Judges Dredd (Karl Urban) and Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) must fight their way to the summit of 200-stories-tall Peach Trees, a.k.a. the domain of violent overlord Ma-Ma and her criminally insane lackeys to put a stop to her tyranny.
Familiarity aside, you’ll have a hard time ungluing yourself from your seat, jaw plastered firmly to the floor as the peddled drug of choice, appropriately named SLO-MO is first used to desired effect, slowing time to that of one percent of normal speed. Coupled with a bombastic score and over-the-top, purposefully exaggerated violence, there’s virtually nothing to dislike for those looking for a good time, and believe it or not, Lena Headey makes one hell of a villain compared to Urban’s imposing turn as the titular Judge.
For as little there is to say about the film outside of its unparalleled visual panache, I assure you it’s the traits I’ve outlined that give the production that certain special oomph, of which is responsible for how thoroughly enjoyable everything truly is. Narratively sound if forseeably sparse, Dredd serves as a prime example of what escapists should strive to recreate if they’re going to wholly embrace stuff in the same vein as this. A bloody good time, Pete Travis and Alex Garland’s collaboration is a criminally under seen if purposefully frivolous and sometimes hilarious, hand-over-mouth effort that rarely fails to entertain at regular intervals, with a huge thanks going to its overbearing strong suits.