DREDD, which kicked off the merrily disreputable Midnight Madness program at the Toronto Film Festival last night, isn’t much, but no one can say the director Pete Travis wasted his 3D budget. Things are constantly hovering, fluttering or–often–splattering in the foreground of the frame, and the images do a better job of suggesting visual depth than those in many much more expensive movies.
There little else about DREDD that’s worth noting. It’s post-apocalypse time again, which means a choice of rural wasteland or blighted urban landscape. Here it’s the latter, with towering indistrial skyscrapers inhabited by barbarous gangs and terrified citizens. The only justice comes from “judges,” who are cops with the right to pronounce and perform sentences on the spot, including death. (All of this may sound mildly familiar from the 1995 Sylvester Stallone bomb JUDGE DREDD, which had a bigger budget and gave Sandra Bullock her first big role.)
This time the visor is worn by Karl Urban (and unlike Stallone, he follows the rule of the comic book character and never takes it off). He does a capable job of rasping macho tag-lines, as though Dredd watches Dark Knight movies every night before he goes to work in the morning. But there’s nothing to Dredd but his deadpan heroism, so a limited amount for Urban to play.
The plot is ripped off fairly blatantly from THE RAID, as Dredd and his psychic rookie partner Anderson (Olivia Thirlby, more often seen in indie projects) are trapped in one of those 200-story skyscrapers and have to make their way upward for a confrontation with arch-villainness Ma-Ma (Queen Cercei herself, Lena Headey, in a downmarket version of her snarling Game of Thrones turn). But where The Raid had spectacular martial-arts battles throughout and a larger group of heroes who could be killed off along the way, DREDD has only explosions and our 2 leads to methodically, and in the end monotonously, climb the building. .
It all makes for a decent time-waste of 90 minutes or so, sparked by some outbreaks of notably garish violence, but the verdict here is is: far from memorable.
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