Toronto 2012: ‘Dredd’ storms the building at Midnight Madness

The Toronto International Film Festival is a showcase for Oscar hopefuls and refined art-house movies destined to win critical acclaim. But there’s another side to the event -- one that comes out at the stroke of midnight.

To kick off the screening of Lionsgate’s new 3-D futuristic action movie “Dredd,” the film’s star Karl Urban strode to the front of the Ryerson Theatre, held a microphone close to his mouth and in his character’s deep rumble intoned, “It’s judgment time,” followed by a profane epithet that cannot be mentioned for fear of offending more sensitive readers.

Clearly, the rules for the festival’s Midnight Madness section -- which programs outre, blood-and-guts action and horror filmmaking for exuberant, enthusiastic fans -- are a little different.

It was nearly an hour past midnight when programmer Colin Geddes finally took the stage and pointed to “Dredd” director Pete Travis sitting in the audience and producer and screenwriter Alex Garland standing along a side aisle. Then he brought out Urban, noting he had appeared in two films in previous years of Midnight Madness. Next came actress Olivia Thirlby, who politely trilled, “Thank you for being here, thank you for waiting.”


“Dredd” is set in a post-apocalyptic future in which some 800 million people live in a single urban sprawl that stretches from Boston to Washington, D.C., where police act as judge, jury and executioner right there on the streets. The film follows Urban’s title officer and Thirlby’s new trainee as they battle the gangs of a drug lord (Lena Headey) in a high-rise tenement. (Interestingly, last year’s Midnight Madness program began with “The Raid: Redemption” about a squad of cops battling a drug gang in a high-rise tenement.)

Shot by cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, who won an Oscar for “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Dredd” mixes bright, vibrant colors with dark, forbidding tones in a hypnotic swirl. The drug in the film is called “Slo Mo,” and provides the opportunity for somewhat dazzling effects, colors turned up to replicate
heightened senses. More than once, blood spurts out over the audience in 3-D, which brought cheers from the crowd.

Vengeance-hungry moviegoers who weren’t able to make it to Toronto will be able to catch the film in all three of its dimensions when it opens Sept. 21.


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