2012, Pete Travis (Vantage Point) -- cinema
The Raid: Redemption wanted to be -- a floor by floor assault on the apartment complex owned by the bad guys. But that is where the comparison ends. It is such a tight movie, a narrow and focused plot that provides just enough room for character development. The action is brutal, bleak and solidifies the world this is set in. Karl Urban is spot-on as Dredd, never showing his face above the mega-scowl he permanently wears. Olivia Thirlby is the judge being judged, new to the brutality of this side of her world and we travel along with her and the transformation she experiences.
This is a movie based on an existing genre comic book franchise -- 2000 AD from which Judge Dredd is a primary character. No, this is not the remake of the Stallone flick, which was an offense to every fan of the British comic books. This is not even a properly over-the-top recreation of the comics, more a grittier (is that even possible?) down to the ground story telling in that world. In some ways it is hard to remember it is a genre flick for the bad guys are typical, more appropriate to any cop movie or an episode of The Wire. It is the world that this is set, something the movie constantly reminds us with fly overs of Mega City One and the complete lack of regard for innocent life. It is a dark near future after a holocaust in America, where irradiated wastelands (what better cliche phrase describes this genre's physical setting?) cover most of the land leaving singular walled cities that cover hundreds of miles. In these cities are tower blocks, the projects of the future. Each can easily hold 50,000+ residents. And there are the judges easily described in the idiom, "judge, jury and executioner." They are literally given the permission to perform these acts of justice, should the crimes call for it. Of course, the stories are as much a comment on police states as they are balls to the walls scifi action stories.
We had to see this movie in 3D, which might be the only way it was released, considering that it is part of the title of the movie. I have an eye condition that makes seeing 3D difficult and often headache inducing. I also join Ebert in my contempt of 3D as an imposed technology not enjoying the inflated price, the post-production additions and the muting of colour. But here they found an appropriate use as it added soooo much to the displayed effects of the slo-mo drug that plays a part in the movie. These drug scenes, depicting how the drug slows your perception of time down to 1% of normal, were beautiful and colourful full of sparks and motes of dust that were just enhanced by the 3D effect. The rest of the movie is dark and dirty, as we follow the two judges being hunted by the criminals who control the Peach Trees tower block. Luckily colour schemes were already muted, so I doubt we noticed any alteration by the 3D tech. And there were few "look its THREE-DEE" moments of sticking things in your face.