After the debacle that was 1995’s Judge Dredd, who in their right mind would want to revisit the character and give the judge another film? DNA Films made the gamble on developing a worthy adaptation of Britain’s most iconic comic character, and it sure as hell paid off. Dredd is a grandiloquent film with plenty of pulpy, high-flown gratuitous violence to please the action-headed, but has plenty of irony and dark humor to make it a guilty pleasure for the intellectuals.
The story of Dredd is set in a dystopian, irradiated wasteland in the U.S. known as the Cursed Earth. In the east coast known as Mega-City One, Judges have the authority to be judge, jury and executioners at the scene of the crime. Chief Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is assigned to evaluate rookie Judge Anderson (Oivia Thirlby), a powerful psychic who struggled on Judge exams. Both officers respond to the report of a drug den in the Peach Trees, a tower block controlled by a drug lord known as Ma-ma. The Judges apprehend one of the criminals for questioning, but Ma-Ma seizes the security controls and seals the building. And what ensues is nothing but self-mocking, bloody mayhem.
Urban plays the faceless, over-the-top antihero to perfection with the wry, deadpan delivery that made Clint Eastwood so great in the Western genre. It’s only fitting that his character is covered by a helmet throughout the entire film because Dredd is void of just about any emotion. Despite the dearth of character development, it’s satisfying to see the hero stick to his guns (literally) and keep his badass card intact. Thirlby is solid as a rookie judge, and provides the compassion and sentiment that Dredd sorely lacks. I would also like to commend Urban for a good-looking chin, which is just about all you can see of the hero.
Pete Travis also deserves recognition for putting Urban’s nicely-chiseled chin in a gritty, gorgeous environment. The director really creates a brood and unnerving setting that resembles 28 Days Later. The “Slo-Mo” shots showing the perspective a drug-induced junkie is breathtakingly stunning (and pretty damn bloody).
Dredd is not only antihero, but also the anti-movie of the year. It’s bloody twisted humor and stellar action is sure to gain the same cult following that Urban has.