The future America is an irradiated waste land. On its East Coast, running from Boston to Washington DC, lies Mega City One--a vast, violent metropolis where criminals rule the chaotic streets. The only force of order lies with the urban cops called “Judges” who possess the combined powers of judge, jury and instant executioner. Known and feared throughout the city, Dredd (Karl Urban, The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek
) is the ultimate Judge, challenged with ridding the city of its latest scourge--a dangerous drug epidemic that has users of “Slo-Mo” experiencing reality at a fraction of its normal speed.
During a routine day on the job, Dredd is assigned to train and evaluate Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby, Juno
), a rookie with powerful psychic abilities thanks to a genetic mutation. A heinous crime calls them to a neighbourhood where fellow Judges rarely dare to venture--a 200 story vertical slum controlled by prostitute turned drug lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey, Game of Thrones, 300
) and her ruthless clan. When they capture one of the clan’s inner circle, Ma-Ma overtakes the compound’s control centre and wages a dirty, vicious war against the Judges that proves she will stop at nothing to protect her empire. With the body count climbing and no way out, Dredd and Anderson must confront the odds and engage in the relentless battle for their survival.
The worldwide box office returns may not have been up to the level that the makers of Dredd
had wanted, but they've nonetheless got a lot to be pleased about with the film itself. Dredd
is, after all, a strong, respectful adaptation of the 2000AD comic strip, that boasts a terrific leading performance from Karl Urban.
Firmly resigning memories of the lesser Sylvester Stallone-headlined Judge Dredd where they belong, this new Dredd is a grittier, far more interesting piece of cinema. Urban stars in the title role, a law enforcer of the future who works as judge, jury and executioner, in the fight to keep crime under control. Taking the rookie Anderson under his wing, played by Olivia Thirlby, the pair of them have to clean out a huge tower block full of criminals, who want them both dead.
Eschewing the need quickly to appeal to a young audience, Dredd is a hard, gritty, enthralling piece of cinema, full of visual zest and with 3D that genuinely enhances the end product. Director Pete Travis deploys 3D firmly for particular effect, and it's an effort rewarded.
Backed up by a disc featuring interesting and diverting extra features, Dredd might not have been the most popular comic book adaptation to hit the big screen in 2012, but it's pretty much the bravest. It deserves to find a far wider audience on disc. --Jon Foster