Dredd (2012)

Director: Pete Travis

So the new Mad Max trailer dropped, and it got me to thinking that, well, isn’t post-nuclear apocalyptic stuff of this kind a bit… I don’t know, old hat? I don’t know when Max’s original adventures were meant to take place, but I suspect we’re now living past that time anyway, plus full-scale nuclear holocaust just doesn’t seem to, you know, intrigue people the way it did in the 80s… And yet here’s Dredd, on SBS2 tonight, and I never thought until the credits rolled about it being, you know, out of time in its own way. I don’t know. Anyway, I grew up on 2000AD, the legendary home of the original Judge Dredd strip which was pretty much always the star feature of that comic… it took me an awfully long time to realise just how, well, fascist its basic premise is; post-nuclear war, what’s left of humanity gathers into Mega-Cities where the Judges are the ultimate force of law, instant judge jury and executioner. Still, when you’re eight years old, you don’t think about that sort of thing, you’re more interested in the futuristic flash… the film at least makes few bones about the dystopian side of its story; it’s a brutally quick set-up to a brutally simple story (Dredd and rookie judge Anderson get trapped in a locked-down city block run by drug kingpin—queenpin?—Ma-Ma, and have to defend themselves with limited weaponry against, oh, hundreds of her gang members and associates, including four of their fellow Judges on the take from Ma-Ma), delivered with, well, brutality. The thing that impressed me most about Dredd was how it pulled off the difficult feat that Judge Dredd failed to do 20 years ago, i.e. delivering a film that would keep long-term Dreddheads happy (even though I haven’t read 2000AD since, what, 1993 or something, I’m still one of those long-termers) without alienating the non-fans, always a difficult deal but Dredd actually pulls it off; it’s recognisable as a “Judge Dredd story” and a more broadly appealing SF actioner. The other thing that impressed me was, of course, the aforementioned brutality; you get the feeling the people involved were determined to revel as much as possible in the fact they could go way beyond the limits of a comic aimed at younger readers. There’s some damned nasty stuff—particular the scene of Anderson psychically interrogating Kay—which I don’t suppose 2000AD could go near even these days when I presume things are a bit looser than they were when I used to read it… On the whole, ruthlessly efficient stuff that goes down easily if you’re into that sort of thing, and that barely gives you time to wonder how the Judges actually let Ma-Ma and her gang take over that city block without stopping her much earlier…

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