'Dredd' - spectacular action, miniscule cinema
Film: "Dredd"; Cast: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey; Director: Pete Travis; Rating: ***
Action films are of different types. There are those that, despite their focus on the adrenalin rush, also have a purpose to the madness. On the other side, you have films like "Dredd", which serve as nothing but a vessel for the talent for the team creating it, without really having anything to say.
If you're a connoisseur of cinema, you'll dread "Dredd". An action junkie, however, will have the time of his or her life with the film.
In a futuristic world ravaged by nuclear war, the still livable parts have been turned into one large mega city where crime is rife and the cops - called judges - have authority to play judge, jury and executioner. After a regular raid on one of the crime infested buildings, an upright Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) and a psychic rookie (Olivia Thirlby) are trapped in a building by its warlord MaMa (Lena Headey).
MaMa puts a bounty on the head of the two Judges. Despite being grossly outnumbered, the judges have no option but to wage an impossible battle to fight their way out and survive.
As a film, "Dredd", based on a comic book of the same name on which a forgettable film had been made earlier, is a linear action story that really isn't going anywhere much. Interesting elements are introduced - like the psychic abilities of the rookie - but it isn't utilised to the full or in an overtly entertaining and interesting manner.
It doesn't help that the film bears such a strong resemblance to the Indonesian action film "Raid: Redemption" that one would almost think of this as an official remake (Hollywood, conscious to intellectual property, usually does not copy).
However, the film does have its share of gore and some extremely well shot action sequences, especially the sequences showing the effects of the drug slow-mo that slows down time for the one who takes the drug.
Despite this, and some decent acting by the likes of Lena Headey, there isn't enough in this linear film to delight a connoisseur of cinema, nor even a science fiction junkie. This is because a lot is intended, but little achieved besides a non-stop action for actions sake.
The similarities between "Raid: Redemption" and "Dredd" are quite a bit. However, the way the two films tackle the story, says a lot about the difference between the Western and the Eastern way of making films.
While the Indonesian film excels in hand-to-hand action, "Dredd" pumps up the adrenalin using special effects. Both have an equal amount of gore. What you choose from the two is a matter of personal choice.
However, as a film and the kind of impossible situations our heroes have to wriggle out of, it is the Indonesian film that scores an ace. Hollywood, it seems, does have some lessons to take from Asia after all.