Now this is a bit more like it. Director Pete Travis brings us a straightforwardly-plotted, grungier (in a good way) and spectacularly more violent treatment of Judge Dredd. As opposed to the 1995 version: a rambling, glossier (in a not good way), and significantly less violent flick.
Writer Alex Garland cooks up a simple and effective day-in-the-life premise. Dredd (Karl Urban) and young rookie Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) investigate a multiple homicide inside a vast Mega Block in Mega City One. The inappropriately named ‘Peach Trees’ block is run by sadistic drug kingpin, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her fearful gang. They trap the two Judges inside the building and subsequently hunt them down.
Filmed in Cape Town and Johannesburg it is brightly shot by Anthony Dod Mantle with sterling visual effects support. It’s a scary and believable urban future within a radioactive wasteland of a planet.
Karl Urban is the iconic lawman. (In fact, he is the law.) Although judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one, he is certainly most adept at the ‘executioner’ part of that skill set. It’s a lot of fun seeing him maim, burn, gas etc an endless string of bad guys who attempt to take him down. Three words to those bad guys: in your dreams. For this Dredd is badass to the last. Urban is very watchable - no mean feat considering more than half his face is obscured. The filmmakers wisely respect this aspect of 2000 AD’s mythology and Dredd’s helmet stays firmly on throughout. I anticipated the worst when the young rookie was revealed to be a young, attractive blonde but the pairing works well. A mismatched pairing of law enforcers is nothing new but it’s a grand tradition because it keeps things interesting. As the yin to Dredd’s yang, 26 year-old Thirlby more than holds her own amongst all the macho posturing.
The action is intense and the director maintains a thrilling momentum. Tonally it’s pretty serious, while still allowing some killer quips from Dredd. The violence is graphic and downright nasty (as it should be) and brings to mind the likes of Paul Verhoeven, who was always unafraid of creating something truly horrific. In an age where studios pussyfoot around with 12As and PG13s this makes Dredd 3D a rarity: a piece of 18 Certificate/ R Rated blockbuster entertainment. Congratulations to the filmmakers for making it so. Here’s hoping it’s a global smash and we might just see a bit more of this kind of thing.