In a post-apocalyptic future, most of the East Coast has morphed into Mega City One, which boasts a dirty, radioactive and heavily armed population. The only thing standing between the city and chaos are the judges. This law enforcement group is entrusted to respond to crimes, sentence and, if necessary, execute criminals on the spot.
After seeing this movie, you’ll never argue with a cop again.
The best judge in the city is the aptly named Judge Dredd (Karl Urban: Priest), who sneers like Eastwood, pummels baddies like Schwarzenegger and dodges bullets like Willis.
This no-nonsense cop is less than thrilled when he’s assigned to break in rookie Anderson (Olivia Thirlby: Being Flynn). Though she’s green and slightly unsure of her newfound duties, Anderson has one handy skill: She’s a powerful psychic.
Dredd takes Anderson out for a routine evaluation, responding to a possible murder at a slum building. When the bodies end up connected to powerful drug lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey: Game of Thrones), Dredd and Anderson decide to take down her organization.
In response, Ma-Ma shuts the building down and offers a bounty to the 75,000 residents within: Kill the judges and get all the drugs and money you want.
Two judges must shoot, bludgeon and evade scores of armed baddies while trying to capture Ma-Ma. Will they win? A quick look at the title should answer that question.
Dredd isn’t about intricate plotting, delving into character motivations or originality. It’s a blood and guts shoot ‘em up that revels in simplicity — and ribbing its own genre.
Based on a British comic series, Dredd was adapted once before as the ill-conceived Sylvester Stallone film Judge Dredd. Stallone’s version was too cartoonish to capture the brilliance of its source material. Dredd plays it straight with better results. It uses a simple story, borrows heavily from both Die Hard and The Raid and celebrates the blood-and-bones roots of the comic.
The film’s view of the future is as dark and grim as the lead character. Everything in this dystopian future looks like it needs a good wash, from the graphitied buildings to the bedraggled inhabitants of Mega City One. Director Pete Travis (Endgame) flashes a bit of artistic flair with creative slow-motion sequences and three-dimensional graphics.
Though the film doesn’t take itself seriously, Urban is a wonderful straight man in this story of excessive violence. He snarls, shoots and punches, all without moving Dredd’s trademark helmet. Still, Urban’s performance is wry, which helps when the good judge has to shout out lines like “I am the law.”
In spite of some pacing flaws and a deeply unoriginal plot, Dredd accomplishes what its predecessor couldn’t: It’s a satisfying action movie with enough blood sprays and fight sequences to remain consistently entertaining. If you don’t like blood and bullets, stay far away. If, however, you’re in the market for a Grade-A B movie, Dredd is guilty as charged.