Synopsis: 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
The last attempt at bringing 2000 AD’s hyper violent Judge Dredd comic to the big screen ended in the mis-judged, mis-cast mess that was the eponymous 1995 Sylvester Stallone/Rob Schneider effort. There were multiple reasons for it falling short of the mark, but in the main it was the introduction of a comedy sidekick, and the over characterization of Dredd. He is, by and large, a black and white blunt instrument of justice. Certainly over the course of the comics there are nuances. But in capturing his core character for a 90 minute movie he should be stoic, sullen, and very flat.
It is the successful transference of these elements to the latest Dredd effort that make it far more entertaining and true to the character. Set over one day, primarily in a locked down mega-tower block, Dredd must protect a rookie Judge (Olivia Thirlby) whilst battling through 200 floors of heavily armed mercenaries and thugs under the control of the blood thirsty matriarch Ma-Ma (Lana Headley). It rightfully drew comparison narratively to The Raid, which came out around the same time.
At times it feels over-stylised, and there is no shortage of gore on display. But it is what you should expect given the hyper-violent nature of the source material. The use of the super slow motion would be enough to give John Woo wood, but Travis is able to organically weave it in to the story through the sub-plot of the proliferation of a new drug which makes users feel like time is moving at 1% of it’s normal pace.
While Karl Urban does a fine job as the perpetually pissed off dispenser of post-apocalyptic justice, it could have been anyone with a strong jawline and down turned mouth, due to the brave and correct decision by director Pete Travis to never show Dredd without his helmet. Meaning any expression comes entirely from his posture and his mouth. It is Lana Headley, though, as the scarred, ruthless and psychotic ex-hooker turned hyper villain who steals the movie. It was certainly refreshing to have a hard as nails matriarchal antagonist for once.
Conclusion: This is the Dredd movie that we should have gotten in 1995. And at 90 minutes it is nice to see some people can still make punchy action movies. Plus it has 100% less Rob Schneider which makes everyone happy.
Cast: Karl Urban, Lana Headey, Olivia Thirlby, Wood Harris