|'Karl Urban's Judge Dredd growls through a script laden with lines hunting for icon status'|
A no-nonsense action film with both smarts and thrills, it's a shame that Dredd appears to exist in a world where 18-rated franchises just don't seem to be required. Either that or its various distributors have seriously struggled to connect with that market. Dredd's worldwide gross as of October was $32 million, leaving the newly released Blu-ray and DVD with a further $18 million to claw back before it even retakes it budget. Prospects of another Dredd hitting screens soon seem thin.
If this is to be the sole outing of the franchise in this form - surely someone will reboot it (again) one day - then at least director Pete Travis and screenwriter Alex Garland have secured cult status for their production. Karl Urban's Judge Dredd growls through a script laden with lines hunting for icon status; 'judgement time', 'the sentence is death', 'I am the law', all seem plain enough on the page but Urban's machismo conviction gives them new life on the screen and Dredd succeeds largely off his back.
The main success of Travis is to place his lead in an world individual enough to differentiate Dredd from the collection of current B-movies vying for similar attention. Whilst this did not convert in box office terms, the artistic success of Dredd when compared to something like The Expendables, is so far ahead that even a bullet to the head couldn't catch it. Olivia Thirlby gives the film an innocent yet strong and intelligent femininity that so many action flicks attempt and then fail miserably at. Paul Leonard-Morgan's original music blends well with recognisable dance tracks and Mark Digby's neon-flecked production design. Travis and Oscar-winning cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle shoot the action like its the trip-out scene in some sort of club-based rave film. As Dredd's one-liners pepper out between him talking to his gun to decide on a type of ammunition, the film oozes a coolness so many of its contemporaries are missing.
If there's a main criticism it's that Travis never extends his world far enough to allow us to see more of Mega City One. The tight structure of invading one single tower block fits well to the ideal runtime of just beyond ninety-minutes but further than that it feels like a cheat that we see so little of the sprawling metropolis. Perhaps that was the plan for the sequel, unlikely as we are to ever find out for sure.