Running Time: 95 minutes
Director: Peter Travis
Cast: Karl Urban, Olivia Thrilby and Lena Headey
In a violent, futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop teams with a trainee to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO.
Judge Dredd, one of British comics most iconic creations, returns to the big-screen seventeen years after his previous outing and thankfully this time round Sylvester Stallone isn’t underneath that iconic helmet.
Let’s be honest The 1995 movie was pretty fucking terrible, not only did Dredd remove his helmet, something his character never did in the comics, but worse still Stallone’s film turned Mega City One’s finest into a walking action movie cliché: a monolithic larger than life central protagonist that did nothing more than spout one cheesy catchphrase after another.
Thankfully that’s not the case this time round, director Pete Travis works from a stripped down, ultra-violent screenplay written by Alex Garland and the British screenwriter perfectly catches the ethos of its 2000AD source-material. Painting a dystopian vision of a post-apocalyptic America, ravaged by radiation slowly descending into chaos. The only thing keeping society together is the Judges, elite law enforcers able to act as judge, jury and executioner and the most famous of them all is Judge Joseph Dredd.
Karl Urban, takes over the mantle of Mega City One’s infamous lawman from Stallone and The New Zealander is excellent, he’s perfectly cast as the grizzled law enforcer with that iconic jawline. Urban is joined onscreen by Olivia Thrilby who plays Anderson, a young cadet Anderson with physic powers.
She’s out on the streets of Mega City One with Dredd on the final part of her evaluation when the duo respond to a homicide in the infamous Peach Trees city block, a 200 story vertical slum run by the notorious prostitute, turned drug lord, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). Things quickly go from bad to worse when Ma-Ma decides to lock down the building and unleashes an onslaught of her cronies to eliminate the two Judges: their only option is to fight their way to the top of the building and confront Ma-Ma head on.
Now stop me if Dredd’s plot sounds awfully similar to Gareth Evan’s brilliant Indonesian set action movie The Raid, but the film’s producers have been keen to stress that this is merely a coincidence. Despite the minor similarities, Dredd is a bloody great action movie, the grungy visuals reminiscent of early John Carpenter and the ultra-violent tone similar to gritty action movies from the 1980s, films like Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop. Whilst I really don’t wanna compare the two films I’ve got to admit that in comparison to Evan’s frantic martial-arts masterclass Dredd’s set-pieces do feel terribly slow and cumbersome.
That said much like The Raid there’s a wonderful novelty factor about watching an 18 certificate movie at the cinema, particularly one that’s a comic book movie. Dredd is as far-removed from Marvel Studio’s normal output as it could possibly be, maybe I’m just a sucker for onscreen violence but you wouldn’t see a man’s skull incinerated from the inside out in an Iron Man movie: hopefully this film will be a launchpad for more of adult-orientated comic movies in the future.
Despite the positives I do have some reservations about the film’s 3D visuals, apart from the uber-stylish SLO-MO sequences there’s very little to justify this film’s release in 3D, so I’d suggest watching this film in 2D wherever possible.
Dredd is a vast improvement upon Stallone’s piss poor outing back in 1995, it’s gritty, grungy and ultra-violent: can we have more of the same please?