“DREDD” (DVD/Blu-ray Review)


by: Chris Alexander on: 2013-01-11 20:11:43

Where do we point the finger for the theatrical failing of
DREDD? An invisible marketing campaign? The hard R? The association with the
previous, lunk-headed 1995 big screen adaptation of the beloved British cult
comic book property?

Maybe all of the above but really, the damage is done and
all we can do is move on. Released on Tuesday on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD,
the pulsating, straight faced, straight up, instant splatter-action classic
DREDD is now in stores, online and VOD. It’s out there, waiting to be
appreciated and admired by the legion of perhaps lazy, and perhaps simply
uninformed, pundits who ignored it during that “blink and you’ll miss it” big
screen bow. If you’re one of those who missed immersing yourself in its
mind-blowing 3D charms, don’t blow it this time…

DREDD stars Karl Urban (DOOM) as the masked (yes, he always
keeps the mask on) future cop Dredd, a “Judge” who like his fellow officers
have the legal right to act as executioners of their criminal foils if the
circumstance calls for it. Set in a dystopian wasteland dubbed Mega City One,
where citizens are ghettoized into high rise fortresses called “Blocks”, the
film opens with Urban’s growling, low timbre narration, setting up the violent
world he works in and giving context for the actions that the law needs to take
to keep this volatile environment in whatever half-assed order it can muster.
As for plot, the narrative is refreshingly simple, uncomplicated and fierce. It
seems a street drug called “Slo-mo” has become the new crack. Cheap and easy to
produce, the brain-frying narcotic gives its users a euphoric distortion of
time, with seconds perceived as orgasmic minutes, the world wound down to a
wide-eyed crawl. This device is gorgeously exploited (especially in 3D) for the
many sequences in which characters do take a hit, and the viewer is suddenly
thrust into the headspace of the addict, all set to the tune of Paul
Leonard-Morgan’s relentless electronic score. Said sequences see Leonard-Morgan
slowing down pop music to a crawl (originally Justin Bieber music!) resulting
in a quasi-choral new age sound that is completely fresh and wildly appropriate
for the subject’s psyche, captured with digital cameras at 3000 frames per
second. Stunning.

Dredd is partnered with rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia
Thirlby) who is also a clairvoyant, a natural phenomenon that occurs every so
often in this not-so brave new world. The two armored officers are called to a
“megablock” fortress humorously named Peachtrees to investigate the murder of a
resident and, after infiltrating a drug lair in one of the suites (a scene that
results in more ultra-detailed slow motion coupled with outrageously languid
bloodshed), they incur the wrath of the dreaded Ma-Ma (GAME OF THRONES’ Lena
Headey). With her scarred face, blackened teeth and evil sneer, Ma-Ma is a
fantastic screen villain; sexy, horrifying and lethal, the Queen of the Slow-mo
empire and a malevolent force forged in the gutters. After capturing one of
Ma-Ma’s henchmen, Dredd and Anderson find themselves trapped in the tenement,
with Ma-Ma offering every resident an ultimatum: kill the Judges or be killed

Buckets of blood and bullet-shredded flesh ensue.


DREDD is a marvel. A throwback to the icy attitude and
unsparingly arch violence of Paul Verhoeven sci-fi thrillers like ROBOCOP (the
likes of which owes more than a bit of debt to the DREDD books) and TOTAL  RECALL, but stripping away the broad humor in
favor of macho comic book pulp. The humor comes from just how far director Pete
Travis and writer Alex Garland (28 DAYS LATER) take the violence, which is
delightfully over the top (the scene where Ma-Ma and her droogs open fire on,
well everyone, is an eye-widening, horrifying hoot). But there’s a dignity and
even a soul here as well—style mixed with a dash or two of humanity and even
empathy. It’s that element that really sets the film apart. Urban is fantastic
too, especially considering his performance consists of physical stance and his
mouth, lips, teeth and stubbled jaw.

The Blu-ray combo release is stocked with quality bonus
materials. “Mega City Master: 35 years of Judge Dredd” is a breathless primer
charting the storied history the Judge Dredd comics with creators John Wagner
and Carlos Ezquerra offering insight. It’s a short doc, but it adds weight to
the film and it’s easy to see that the makers of DREDD do the source justice.
“Days of Chaos” is decent and surprisingly thorough considering its 15 minute look
at the production design of the Mega City One. The rest of the features are
brief, but effective EPK promo materials that examine costumes and the 3D
process, plus the usual trailers and TV spots. It’s a shame there’s nothing
here that dissects the monstrous score, the likes of which give the film its
hypnotic rhythm, an essential component to its success.

Yes, it bombed in theatres, meaning that another big screen
DREDD venture is unlikely. Or maybe not. If enough of a rabid fanbase evolves
post-BR release, there might be enough interest to get Dredd and Anderson back
in action on a grand scale. One can dream…

MOVIE: alt



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About the author
Chris Alexander
Author, film critic, teacher, musician and filmmaker (not to mention failed boxer) Chris Alexander is the editor-in-chief of FANGORIA Magazine. He got his first professional break as the “Schizoid Cinephile” in the pages of Canadian horror film magazine RUE MORGUE before making the move to FANGO in 2007. His words have appeared in The Toronto Star, Metro News, Wired, Montage, The Dark Side, Tenebre and many other notable publications and he appears regularly on international television and radio.
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