Final Cut is one of the more complex and multi-layered plots to be found in any of the Dredd books series. If it's even possible, the story is darker and grimmer than even the usual Dredd stories. We open to the brutal scene of a young woman being brutally tortured and killed, with her body tossed into a chemical dump where it will be slowly dissolved. When a construction crew working on the new building of a wealthy and well-connected man named Peat, uncover the remains of the body and several others, Dredd comes in to investigate. Unfortunately, the chemicals have taken their toll and the only remaining clue is a titanium earring that lodged in the skull of the victim, resistant to the chemicals.
Dredd confronts Peat over the discovery of the bodies, as well as an incident that took place earlier in the evening at the opening of his latest building. A popular music star was making an appearance and was the victim of an assassination attempt. Her bodyguards were also in possession of illegal weapons. This eventually draws Dredd into conflict with chief judge Hershey who needs Dredd to tow the line around the influential Mr. Peat. This doesn't sit too well with Dredd as you may imagine. While all of this is going on, Judge Trager, a member of the mysterious, undercover Wally squad, is knee deep in trouble himself. He's fallen in with the Dansky gang who deal in illegal arms sales in Mega-City One. The gang is set to make a major arms purchase as well as buying a mysterious package for a client who the Dansky brothers seem to fear a great deal. Thus it is that we have three plots running throughout the book with Dredd investigating the bodies found in the dump as well as the attempted assassination, and the Wally squad's involvement with the arms dealers. How are they all connected?
What I loved about Final Cut is that the usual sci-fi elements are downplayed. This could easily be a story taking place in present day. It is at its core a gritty, brutal, street crime drama with mysterious murders, influential but shady businessmen, and ruthless gangs. Writer Matthew Smith as composed one of the best Dredd books yet, requiring Dredd to do so much more than just blow the bad guys away. He needs not only his investigative skills but also needs to display some rare diplomacy as well. It was also interesting to a glimpse inside the mysterious Wally Squad as well. These are some very "different" judges than fans are used to seeing.
Reviewed by Tim Janson