Dredd (18) 96 mins ***
Here’s a turn-up for the comic books. On paper, and even in trailer form, a 3D reboot of 2000AD’s hardnut perennial looked far from promising – this despite the fact it only had to better 1995’s Sly Stallone vehicle, source of countless “Dredd-ful” headlines, to seem worthwhile. Rather than rehashing multiple strands of character mythology, screenwriter Alex Garland and director Pete Travis keep their adaptation appreciably simple. Here, we spend one day in Mega City One, watching the aftermath of a bloody triple murder playing out in a tower block put on lockdown when ruthless drug-pusher Lena Headey decides she’s had enough of the law sticking their helmets into her business.
What follows is something like The Raid redux, as Dredd (Karl Urban’s nose and chin, skilfully suggesting an entire character) attempts to escort a witness from the building, aided by Olivia Thirlby’s ultra-empathetic probie, and hindered by Headey’s many minions. The 96 minutes of agreeably pulpy, shrewdly paced action that follow are further elevated by the dabs of slo-mo beauty cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle lends to the mounting carnage. Too grungy to count as an unqualified blast, perhaps, it’s nevertheless a very sound franchise-builder, sketching a universe where stories and crimes remain to be investigated. For once, sequels would seem necessary, even welcome.
Dredd opens nationwide today.