In the world of “Dredd,” the tenderest moment comes when a character stitches together a wound. Judge Dredd is a product of his environment: a police officer in a post-apocalyptic future, devoid of emotion. He has no levity, and his superhero catchphrase is merely a description of his profession: “I am the law.” Dredd is a cipher — a square jaw under a goofy mask, which is in some ways all the better — on paper, that is. The “Judge Dredd” comics are sagas of absurdist violence, buoyed by the darkest of humor. The exposition the comic medium demands is given enough space for the detailed setting to grow and settle on the page, and the hero is not undone by his own humorless manner.
In the film, however, there is hardly a line of dialogue not growled or slurred, while characters deliver crass and obvious exposition. Styled as a neo-noir narrative, the movie is at its most engaging when it gives up its cliched attempts at character growth—a strange weakness, considering its usually reliable screenwriter Alex Garland (“28 Days Later”).
Despite the poor script, the movie does impress with its cinematographic trump card: Slo-Mo-fueled shoot-outs. Slo-Mo, a drug that decelerates its user’s surroundings to 1 percent of their actual speed, is a convenient and effective device that allows director Pete Travis and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle to execute some genuinely inspired camera movements. These high frame-rate showdowns find sublimity in brutality — think “Mythbusters” meets Rob Zombie. The Hong Kong action cinema subgenre has seemingly found its logical conclusion in the adaptation of a 35-year-old comic about police officers.
And what a police drama “Dredd” is. The grizzled Dredd (Karl Urban) is burdened with the wide-eyed rookie Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) before being dispatched to a massive building controlled by prostitute and druglord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). Urban, his head stuffed in a helmet throughout the film, may be excused for delivering a mostly unengaging performance. But Headey’s weary and disillusioned Ma-Ma seems pulled from another movie. The film ultimately falls to Thirlby, who steals every scene in which she appears.
It is ironic that in an adaptation of a comic series founded on dark humor, the few smirks the film ellicits are the most clichéd aspects of “Dredd.”
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Sept. 20 print edition. Casey Lent is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Weekend Roam: Little Germany
- WSN Editorial Board reflects on spring semester events
- Strawberry Festival promises delicious, intergalactic fun
- Clive Davis Institute collaborates with DJ Swivel
- Best places to dine on dumplings
- 'Heroes' is not super enough for Xbox Live film program launch
- NYU SLAM sees victory through 'badidas' campaign
- Victoria Ettore elected student council president
- Hester Street Fair hosts diverse vendors, delicious food