Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is the most feared of the elite Street Judges, walking the wild streets of Mega City One with the power to enforce the law, sentence offenders and execute them on the spot if necessary. He is assigned the rooky - a 'mutant' and psychic - Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) with whom he takes on the Ma-Ma gang run by Ma-Ma (Lena Heady) in the Peach Trees Towers that houses 75,000 inhabitants, mostly poor and the rest criminals. The ruthless Ma-Ma is doing a thriving trade in the new 'slomo' drug and will not let anyone step in her way.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Karl Urban (he hates it when I call him little bro) sneers and growls his way through this noir comic book movie as the almost faceless Dredd, showing only his mouth under his Judge uniform helmet. (Hence all the sneering I guess.) It's not so much acting that's required as moving. It's a shoot 'em up video game; the only thing that's missing is a control stick for the audience.
Set in a huge, relentlessly grimy, depressing, grey concrete apartment block housing 75,000 - it's one of the many in Mega City One with a population of 800 million - the film imposes its grungy tone and its graphic violence in a concentrated burst of gunfire and mayhem. There is no sky; it's all smog. There is no grass, it's all concrete. There is no light and shade, it's heavy. And there are very few real characters - they're mostly targets.
On the other hand, the future world of Dredd is superbly designed and rendered, the action is fearsome and full of grit. Sensational stunts, horrific deaths and tons of tension drive the film's dynamic sensibilities - just what is expected I suppose.
What's more, Lena Headey is as nasty a villain as any male actor could deliver; her disfigured face a scarred reminder of her inner disfiguration. Cold malice oozes out of her in every scene she's in.
Olivia Thirlby is great as the rooky judge Anderson, whose psychic powers give her a decided advantage when facing the evil crims who will skin their victims alive before hurling them off the 100th floor. "He's thinking of going for your gun," she warns Dredd in the lift as they transport their prisoner, Kay (Wood Harris); Dredd acknowledges, and then she says: "Now he's not." It's about the most fun we have in this bloodsoaked and angry manifestation of a comic book hero - who should have stayed inside the pages.
In there, even the most morally questionable characters can be contained; on the screen, they are living, breathing, three dimensional humans whose universe is almost accessible, especially in 3D. Cold blooded killing is on everyone's to do list, it seems. Dredd is a popular comic character because he is the acceptable image of vigilante justice, thanks to his official status. The wish fulfillment of testosterone-driven young males for violent action is used as the tool to drive this robotic and de-humanised character. Karl Urban isn't sneering and growling for nothing: it's to emphasise that Dredd is not like us. But will any of the target audience get that? Or care?
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DREDD 3D (MA15+)
CAST: Karl Urban, Lena Headey, Olivia Thirlby, Domhnall Gleeson, Santi Scinelli, Wood Harris, Langley Kirkwood, Rakie Ayola,
PRODUCER: Alex Garland, Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich
DIRECTOR: Pete Travis
SCRIPT: Alex Garland (characters by Carlos Ezquerra, John Wagner)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Anthony Dod Mantle
EDITOR: Mark Eckersley
MUSIC: Paul Leonard-Morgan
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark Digby
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 25, 2012