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January 2013

Dredd

cast: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, and Lena Headey

director: Pete Travis

95 minutes (18) 2012
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
EIV blu-ray region B
[released 14 January]

RATING: 8/10
review by Steven Hampton

Dredd 3D

The superhero cinema of comicbook style movies is always better than average when filmmakers take the subject and its themes seriously. The Dark Knight was a perfect example of how an intelligent and creative director can elevate such pulp material, so often entrenched in campy routines, to poetic heights as tragic drama - that is just as much fun to watch as the comedy versions, but without a tongue-in-cheek approach. Delicately balanced shades of humour are probably essential in any movie about that particular crusading vigilante but, with The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan has proved that Batman could be far more than simply a two-dimensional stereotype.

Filmed in South Africa, Pete Travis' Dredd showcases a very different style to Danny Cannon's Judge Dredd (1995). That previous adaptation for the big screen was a star vehicle for Sylvester Stallone, and delivered a narrative condensed from the 2000 AD comicbook series. Judge Dredd was expansive in its futuristic scope by reaching beyond the familiar - as when Stallone removes his uniform's helmet, whereas Dredd is more compressive in its intensity of questionable morality and acute mortal dangers. Judge Dredd struggled through a pseudo-epic storyline about injustice, with a framed hero's fall from grace, his exile from home, and eventual return to clear his name, but the much simpler Dredd offers no such vital mission, and it is actually little more than a routine drugs raid. What it has lost from its predecessor's satirically Orwellian macrocosm, Dredd gains in its pointed and gritty dystopian microcosm.

Genre favourite Karl Urban (Caesar in Xena; Chronicles Of Riddick; Doom; And Soon The Darkness remake; Star Trek reboot) is great as Judge Dredd, scourge of all scum, and gangs, in the vast festering sprawl-polis of Mega City One. He is partnered with a rookie judge, blonde psychic Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby, The Darkest Hour, The Wackness, and Vincent Perez's The Secret). This mismatched pair are an obvious mentor and novice, as Dredd and his pretty sidekick investigate the gangland killings in the kilometre-high Peach Trees block. It's a residential and commercial building in which is ruled over by mobster Madeline Madrigal (Lena Headey, The Cave, 300, The Broken, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), formidable leader of the Ma-Ma clan.

Although Dredd is basically just a futuristic western about a couple of ambushed law-enforcers isolated from their usual support and caught in a trap, there are some genre asides that are presented cleverly and stylishly within the context of a standard action and suspense thriller like Richard Donner's under-rated cop drama 16 Blocks (2006), and franchised hit Die Hard (1988), John Carpenter's Escape From New York (1981), and Assault On Precinct 13 (1976), and its 2005 remake (Assault On Precinct 13), in particular. Into this mix of policier influences, Travis weaves a perception altering drug 'slo-mo' so that, in visual effects set-pieces, there are several impressive scenes of gory 'bullet-time' artistry, all greatly enhanced by the slow-motion cinematography depicting frequently operatic degrees of violence.

Like 2012's other futuristic urban nightmare, Len Wiseman's notable remake of Total Recall - which relies heavily upon slick live-action cartoon set-pieces for its sci-fi impact, Dredd uses its horizontal and vertical spaces imaginatively to depict gritty scenes of armed combat, while the virtual planes of surveillance camera views, and Judge Anderson's psi visions and mind-games, add to the visuals and emotional structures of both drama and milieu.

The blu-ray transfer is superb with vivid colour and strong blacks. Disc extras include featurettes with material on 2000 AD comicbook original, focus on slo-mo, Mega City One, 3D visuals, costumes, the main character, and brief interviews with the cast and crew.



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