Homegrown where Danny Cannon's 1995 ill-fated Sylvester Stallone vehicle was bowdlerised for American tastes, this new attempt at filming John Wagner's controversial futuristic comic-book hero, scripted by writer Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later, Sunshine) seems to take its perverse pleasure out of giving the finger to Hollywood's comic adaptations rulebook. No love interest, no sexuality whatsoever, no softening of the almost casual brutality of the original comics that, in some way, reflected the state of things at the time of its creation in a Great Britain about to be swept up by the punk revolution.

     Dredd is a nasty, ultra-violent metaphor of crime-ridden anarchy gone global in a post-apocalyptic society where the all-powerful judges are the only measure of justice, filmed as a non-stop action-thriller-cum-video-game that doesn't ever stop to take prisoners and ends up leaving a brittle, bitter after-taste in the mouth. Just like some of the most extreme Asian thrillers of recent years, Dredd gives audiences the violent action they've come for - and more, in a "be careful what you wish for" style. But it's also a derivatively ingenious mash-up of a "first-day-on-the-job" cop plot (here, rookie judge Cassandra Anderson, played by Olivia Thirlby, is assigned to Karl Urban's monolithic Dredd for a make-or-break day in the field) with the Carpenterian urban westerns like Escape from New York or Assault on Precinct 13 (Dredd and Cassandra find themselves locked inside a mega-project controlled by drug queen Lena Headey, behind a new highly addictive opiate called slo-mo).

     The end result reminds me of last year's Indonesian cult hit The Raid: Redemption in its relentless, violent action pushed through the futuristic roof of Mark Digby's seedy urban landscapes and Anthony Dod Mantle's gritty cinematography. It's a dangerously disturbing piece of work whose streamlined missile approach never dwells on the points it wants to make about society; it merely moves speedily while hoping you get it the first time out, in the best tradition of blink-and-you'll-miss-it genre programmers.

Cast: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, Wood Harris, Langley Kirkwood

Director: Pete Travis
Screenplay: Alex Garland, from the comic-book characters created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra
Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle (colour, processing by Technicolor, widescreen, 3D)
Music: Paul Leonard-Harris
Designer: Mark Digby
Costumes: Michael O'Connor, Dianna Cilliers
Editor: Mark Eckersley
Visual effects: Jon Thum
Producers: Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich, Mr. Garland, Jason Kingsley, Chris Kingsley (Rena Film and Peach Tree Film for Reliance Entertainment, IM Global and DNA Films)
South Africa/United Kingdom/India/USA, 2012, 96 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Colombo 1 (Lisbon), September 21st 2012


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