Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
September 20, 2012
** (out of our)
Two months after people questioned if it was too soon for another Spider-Man (it wasn’t), no one’s complaining about a new Judge Dredd 17 years after the 1995 Sylvester Stallone film.
I don’t think anyone would have complained about a do-over in 1996.
To an extent, “Dredd” gets worse by being better. Instead of strong (negative) feelings about its cheesiness, the new take on the comic book hero (now played by Karl Urban of “Star Trek”) just inspires boredom. It’s a bloody, generic movie about good guys hunting bad guys. Nothing more.
This time, Dredd hunts a criminal known as Ma-Ma (Lena Headey of “Game of Thrones”), who’s eliminated all gang opposition and taken over a 200-story slum with the same dingy, green-brown look of “Saw.” (Since they’re not making any more “Saw” movies—that’s still the case, I hope?—it’s nice Lionsgate can reuse the sets.) Dredd, a law enforcement officer who serves as judge, jury and executioner in a futuristic, crime-ridden wasteland, and his newbie partner (Olivia Thirlby of “Juno”) must fight their way out when they’re trapped in the building. It recalls this year’s Indonesian martial arts flick “The Raid: Redemption,” except with gruesome gun violence and people being skinned (!) in place of hand-to-hand/foot-to-face combat.
Slo-Mo, Ma-Ma’s preferred drug which causes the brain to work at 1 percent normal speed, allows director Pete Travis (“Vantage Point”) to stylize anything in sight when someone has inhaled the drug. That means everything from slow-motion bath water to a bullet ripping slowly through a cheek. Mostly “Dredd” offers occasional toughness and consistent brutality as compensation for anything interesting, including Thirlby being completely unconvincing as an ass-kicker.
Urban, meanwhile, maintains his status as one of Hollywood’s most anonymous occasional leading men. In “The Dark Knight Rises,” Tom Hardy made Bane terrifying without showing his face. In “Dredd,” Urban and his helmet-obscured face make absolutely no impression and suggest anyone who fit the suit could have played the role.
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