It’s been seventeen long years since Sylvester Stallone crushed the British cult comic strip character Judge Dredd so much that fans disowned the film. Who could blame them? I saw it at the cinema and have never forgotten the pain. Thankfully, this newest big screen adventure reboot for the beloved British-created entity has a siege mentality and one tough actor in the lead role. The action is pretty exciting too.
Once a regular on Xena: Warrior Princess, part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and now known as Bones in the new Star Trek, proud New Zealander Karl Urban keeps the helmet on as the no-nonsense Dredd, pushing the boundaries of law enforcement. In a desolate future between Boston and Washington is now Mega-City, one where cops are all-in-one foot soldiers as judges, jury and executioners. Challenged throughout the city by regular individuals, crime starts getting a whole lot worse when a new drug begins to filter through the streets. It’s called slo-mo causing bodily functions to practically shut down movements linked to brain function, but when the user comes out of the initial high, violent tendencies set in, and they go nuts.
On a routine day on the job, Dredd is teamed up with rookie judge Anderson (Thirlby), who is meant to only observe Dredd on the beat and learn from his unorthodox training. Anderson has psychic abilities due to a genetic mutation, which makes things very interesting. She can often address criminal activity or determine the perpetrator before the incident. The duo gets a call to a 200-story building that thousands of scum dwellers call home. Upon entering the vertical slum, something is simply not right. The over populated building is ran by prostitute-turned-drug-lord, Ma Ma (Lena Headey, Queen Gorga of 300 fame). She is ruthless, nasty and vile to her minions with a love/hate relationship with judges. When a ransom is set by Ma Ma, a brutal chase begins.
Without giving too much more away, the building goes into complete lock down as Dredd and Anderson get trapped inside, while being pursued by an assortment of trigger-happy weirdos intent on killing them. If you are lucky enough to have seen the Indonesian film, The Raid, similarities will be more than apparent.
There is no comparison however of Urban to Stallone, completely inexplicable opposites. In every sense, I believe Urban is much more dedicated to the original source; hopefully fans agree his prosecuting is far harsher. A world away (literally) from her lighter roles in Juno & No Strings Attached, Thirlby is smart and interesting as Anderson. As the film moves on, her character evolves amongst the mayhem. The pair make fine and unlikely colleagues, complete with the occasional amusing one liner.
My only real problem with Dredd was the slow-motion splatter shots that seem to be happening every five minutes. There was no need to keep seeing body parts coming out of the screen in a blood orgy. The impact is lost. For me, the 3D gets monotonous very quickly.
Dredd 3D hits theaters Friday, September 21st.