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Dredd (Pete Travis, 2012)

September 20, 2012

Excluding a much-maligned 1995 adaptation, one of the more notable influences 2000 AD’s Judge Dredd comic book series has had on the film world is informing Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop. Both have corrupt future city settings, helmeted law enforcer protagonists, and often absurd levels of violence. The comparison in Pete Travis’ Dredd is especially inescapable when, in one scene, Karl Urban’s Judge Dredd informs a felon that they only have a certain number of seconds to comply. The most important comparison, however, between RoboCop, or even Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi fare in general, and the Judge Dredd comics, is the heavily satirical content amidst the gore and gunplay. Though not a glaring detriment, it is somewhat disappointing that Travis’ film only has small flourishes of the satire, especially as one brief example in the film’s opening sequence is something one suspects Verhoeven would relish: following a crime bust in a public venue, a street-cleaning vehicle wipes up the blood of murdered bystanders while the bodies in question are still on the ground, as a nearby display assures customers and staff that they will be able to re-enter the building in just a few minutes.

With both films sharing a law force trapped in a tower block-based siege, the Judge Dredd reboot bears some superficial comparisons to The Raid. While Gareth Evans’ film had some John Carpenter DNA mixed with the better traits of prime John Woo, the Carpenter influence is even more pronounced in Travis’ effort. Dredd is a concise genre exercise with sharply-defined, engaging characters, a compelling narrative, and moments of inspired flair in its bursts of action. Some of the less oppressive portions of Paul Leonard-Morgan’s effective industrial score even bring to mind Carpenter’s self-composed synth soundtracks. Like that director in his prime, Travis and writer Alex Garland are just concerned with a singular showcase of thrills, the film never overstaying its welcome, length or narrative-wise, and displaying little to no concern with franchise aspirations. In a comic adaptation market flooded with intertwining films, bloated allegorical contortions and constant set-up for sequels, Dredd is positively refreshing….

Full review at Sound on Sight

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