Lean, mean and luridly violent, sci-fi action thriller Dredd does a much better job of bringing cult comic-book anti-hero Judge Dredd to the screen than the misfiring 1995 Sylvester Stallone version, which committed the cardinal blunder of stripping Dredd of his iconic helmet. Here, fortunately, Karl Urban’s laconic Dredd keeps his visor resolutely down throughout the fast-moving action of director Pete Travis’s muscular 3D adaptation.
The setting, as readers of British comic 2000 AD will know, is near-future metropolis Mega-City One, a teeming post-nuclear hellhole where motorcycle-riding law enforcers patrol the crime-ridden streets. Judge, jury and executioner rolled into one, Dredd is the toughest of them all. He’s almost as unforgiving with his new partner, trainee judge Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), as he is with criminals – and doesn’t expect her to survive the day when they go to investigate a triple homicide at a 200-storey high-rise slum called Peach Trees, a towering block ruled over by ruthless drug lord Ma-Ma (a scarred, psychotic Lena Headey). Cassandra’s psychic gifts prove useful, however, when Ma-Ma locks down the complex to stop the duo leaving with a suspect.
There’s no time for subtlety as the pair to fight their way to the top against hordes of heavily armed thugs, but the computer-game-style combat is so furious and brutal that genre fans will be too breathless to notice. Dexter and screenwriter Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later) do press pause now and then, though, for some bravura slow-motion photography that reproduces the psychotropic effects of the Slo-Mo drug Ma-Ma is peddling. And there’s time, too, to enjoy the grim and grimy look of Mega-City One itself, a CGI-enhanced version of contemporary Johannesburg.
Released on Blu-ray & DVD by EV on Monday 14th January.