Saturday, 8 September 2012


Year:  2012
Director: Pete Travis
Screenplay:  Alex Garland, based on the comic book character created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra
Starring:  Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Wood Harris, Lena Heady
Running Tme:  95 minutes
Genre:  Science-fiction, horror

In a post-apocalyptic world, much of the planet Earth is an irradiated wasteland dubbed "Cursed Earth", the majority of the population live in vast, overcrowded Mega-Cities.  The law is enforced by an urban police force known as "Judges" who have the authority to act as judge, jury and instant executioner.  The largest of the Mega-Cities is Mega-City One which covers most of the eastern part of North America, and the toughest Judge in Mega-City One is Judge Dredd (Urban).  Dredd is assigned to instruct and assess a rookie Judge named Cassandra Anderson (Thirlby) who has powerful psychic abilities.  Their first case involves a gruesome triple homicide at one of the most crime-ridden towerblocks in the city.  Dredd and Anderson quickly connect the murders to the thriving trade in an illegal new drug called "Slo-Mo" which causes it's users to experience time at a fraction of normal speed.  It turns out that the entire towerblock is controlled by the psychotic gang leader Ma-Ma (Heady).  Before long Dredd and Anderson find themselves in a desperate struggle for survival when they become sealed in the towerblock with an entire army of heavily armed criminals set against them.

Judge Dredd first appeared in the pages of British science-fiction comic book 2000 AD in 1977.  The character first appeared on screen in the 1995 in the movie Judge Dredd with Sylvester Stallone in the title role.  The movie had a fairly mixed reception from critics and fans, with a lot of the criticism being about how the movie deviated from the comics.  For example, one of the distinctive elements of the character in the comics is that he is never shown without his helment on obscuring most of his face.  In the Stallone movie, the helmet is taken off within the first twenty minutes and stays off.  In Dredd, the helmet stays on for the entire movie.  For reasons other than an obscured face, Dredd is a difficult character to translate to film.  In the comics he is fascistic, humourless, dour and completely fixated on enforcing the law.  It's to the film's credit that Dredd is transferred pretty much wholesale from the page to the screen, with no backstory or clever witticisms.  Urban turns in a great performance, having to deliver a performance with only the lower half of his face visible, and a great, growling voice.  As a result most of the character development and emotional heart of the movie is given to the tough yet sympathetic trainee Judge Anderson, and Olivia Thirlby does a great job.  Also memorable is Lena Heady as the brutal ganglord Ma-Ma.  The film was made with a comparatively tiny budget for a comic book movie and so confines most of it's action to the interior of the towerblock, which provides an element of claustrophobia as well as great running gun battles through the corridors.  Mega-City One itself is contemporary Johannesburg with a few CGI additions.  The film includes a number of beautifully surreal slow-motion sequences with heightened colour to represent to effects of the Slo-Mo drug, which work beautifully in 3D.  However nothing gets in the way of the film's bone-crunching, brain-frying violence, and this film is extremely violent.

The film brought to mind the excessive, graphically violent science-fiction action movies of the early 1990s such as the original Total Recall, RoboCop 2 and Predator 2, and that really is no bad thing.    

Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) lays down the law in Dredd

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