Dredd ★★★★½

So, Dredd was ace.

Let's address the obvious points first.

"Is it faithful to the comic strip?"

Well, yes and no. To those used to reading 2000AD in the 90s and afterwards, it might look a bit, well, near-future: Dredd is more of a heavily armed bike cop than a full-on Judge, and Mega-City is a mix of modern-looking slums and the expected mega-Blocks of the comic.

But if you cast your mind back to the origins of the comic, in the 70s and early 80s, Dredd originally looked a lot more like the film - the Justice Department was added onto a more traditional setup; in the early strips there was even a normal police force. Dredd the film felt a lot like it was set in that era.

"Is Karl Urban any good as Dredd?"

Well, first of all, barring Clint Eastwood when he was younger, NOBODY is really ever going to get the classic-era Dredd look spot on. Urban looks, again, like the young Dredd from the earlier strips, perhaps a few years out of the academy, a rising star making his name. He is taciturn and humourless, his lips drawn down in a permanent scowl. Some of the lines and delivery are frankly cheesy, but then that was always true in the comics as well. Within about 10 minutes of watching the film, you see Dredd and not someone playing him, a sensation entirely helped out by the fact he keeps his helmet on.

"Does it look cheap and nasty?"

Some of the early photos taken on the film set did NOT look good, but in the final version the film looks fantastic. The Lawmaster bike is the only slightly dodgy element, but it's an improvement over Stallone's monstrosity. Once inside the Block, everything feels authentic, with plenty of inside references to the characters and storylines throughout the many years of the 2000AD strip.

Above and beyond all this, though, Dredd succeeds because it's just a good action movie - well paced, well shot, and sensationally violent. In an era where a 15 or even a 12 a contains the sort of violence that would have garnered an 18 certificate back in the 80s, Dredd fully earns its 18 rating, with some of the most inventive killshots I've ever seen. The director Pete Travis hasn't done an action movie before, but I suspect he'll get the call a lot more after this.

One particularly unexpected bonus was Olivia Thirlby as the Cadet Anderson. Always one of the more interesting characters in the comics, here she fulfills the character development that Dredd is incapable of, and give us a perspective on his character that fleshes him out somewhat. Thirlby is also luminescently beautiful in a film that otherwise embraces ugliness.

So, what now? Well, the obvious answer is a few more movies, but personally I'd like to see a different option; the comic book nature of Dredd would fit brilliantly into a high-quality tv series, each a single-hour case or storyline with some over-arching plot. There's really nothing like it on tv, or in the cinema for that matter, and a fully-realised, adult content scifi drama on an unrestricted channel like HBO would be awesome.

In any case, I absolutely want to see more.

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