In a violent metropolis in the dystopian future, peace-keeping is a job for the cops, who are judge, jury and executioner combined.
Mega City, a vast metropolis of 800 million souls stretching from Boston to DC, is run by gangs and drug lords. Only the Judges, known and feared – and equipped with the latest technology – have the power to keep the lid on crime and Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is the most feared of all. Masked, helmeted, metal-suited and fully obscured, his latest challenge is ridding the city of its current scourge – a new drug known as “Slo-Mo”, which dramatically slows reality for its users. Every feeling and emotion can be experienced for longer – ecstasy as well as agony.
On the day Dredd is assigned to train Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a new recruit with powerful psychic abilities springing from a genetic mutation, they are summoned to a crime scene at Peach Trees – one of the most violent spots in the city. 200 Stories of savage high-rise slum run by Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), prostitute turned crime boss, and her ruthless gang. A vicious triple-murder has been committed – the bodies, flayed and tossed off the top of the building.
After the dynamic duo captures one of Ma-Ma’s key henchmen (Wood Harris), she manages to over-ride the compound’s security control and puts the high rise into lockdown. No loss of life is too great to protect her empire and the two judges must fight overwhelming odds if they hope to survive.
More blood-thirsty and hard core than the bland 1995 JUDGE DREDD starring Sylvester Stallone, director Pete Travis and screenwriter Alex Garland have ramped up the action and brutality to adapt to these darker times and appeal to a more extreme target group. As a superhero, Dredd has little to commend him to a wider target audience. A man of few words and those in a gruff “Batman” voice, he is hardly allowed to show any humanity or expression – never mind his face – which leaves Thirlby to transport such emotion and sympathy as is to be found in the script. And she does this with a modicum of success. Even more successful to my mind is Lena Headey’s portrayal of arch-villainess Ma-Ma, A sense of profound sadness can be sensed beneath the character’s hard exterior.
But the focus here is on merciless carnage in vivid 3D and a $50 million budget. Blood splatters, bodies are dismembered – much of it in Slo-Mo – a technique I initially found interesting, and then over-used and tedious – all underlaid with a pulsing score by Paul Leonard-Morgan, most of it below the stave. The goodies and the baddies are equally savage, but justice, such as it is in this post-apocalyptic world, wins through.
DREDD 3D (USA 2012); Distributor: Lionsgate Films; US release: 21st Sept/Germany: 15th November; Running time: 96 mins: Director: Pete Travis; Writers: Alex Garland (screenplay), Carlos Ezquerra, John Wagner (characters) Cast: Karl Urban, Olivia thirlby, Lena Heqadey, Carlos Ezquerrs, Wood Harris;Langley Kirkwood ; MPAA Rating: R