2012 Running time: 92 Certificate: 18 Rating: 4

Synopsis

Karl Urban dons the helmet (and doesn't take it off) to play the uber-righteous member of a police force empowered with the right to be judge, jury and indeed, executioner, in the dark and dirty metropolis Mega City One. Writer Alex Garland (The Beach) and director Pete Travis create a sublime sink city of crime and grime distinguished by some entrancing - and ultra-violent - action setpieces seen through criminal eyes raddled by the hallucinatory narcotic slo-mo. In a visual collision between Pissarro and Peckinpah, it's a movie that's masterfully honours its comic book origins.

Director

  • Pete Travis

Cast

  • Karl Urban

  • Olivia Thirlby

  • Lena Headey

  • Jason Cope

Review

Of all the comic creations demanding a big screen adventure, Judge Dredd isn't exactly at the top of most people's lists.

The last time Dredd melodramatically stomped his way into cinemas was in 1995, courtesy of Sylvester Stallone and that bastion of cinematic ineptitude, Rob Schneider.

While his 2000AD comic adventures have continued on strong, Judge Dredd was such a dredd-ful box office bomb that it fittingly executed any further mainstream or movie success.

So it's all the more impressive that Alex Garland, Pete Travis and Karl Urban have crafted a movie entertaining, brutal and bloodthirstily violent enough to banish the original from memory.

In a dystopian future wasteland, millions of people are crammed into enormous, crime-ridden metropolises. While horrific crimes and violent abuse runs rampant, the 'Judges' - a police force who possess the combined powers of judge, jury and instant executioner - are there to enforce the law.

The most unsentimental bad-ass of them, Judge Dredd doesn't take too kindly to being paired up with fledgling rookie psychic Judge Anderson for her first day on the job. But when the pair find themselves locked inside a 200-story slum at the mercy of psychotic drug baron Ma-Ma, Dredd and Anderson are forced to battle their way through level after level of gun-toting goons to survive.

For fans of this summer's real breakout action movie The Raid, it's a familiar story - and in comparison, Dredd predictably pales. A thrifty budget (in Hollywood terms, at least), and a threadbare plot mean that Dredd is occasionally hampered by its own limitations (there are only so many grungey urban corridors they can run around before the whole thing starts to feel like a Laser Quest).

Within the confines of its limitations though, it's an undoubted success. Garland and Travis have crafted a fully believable sci-fi landscape - replete with some great production design, thunderous action scenes and entertainingly realised characters.

In keeping with the comics, Dredd never once takes off his mask, making Karl Urban's dry, statuesque and authoritative performance all the more impressive. We may only really get to see his chin, but goddamn if it isn't the most imposing, engaging and entertaining chin in Hollywood today.

Lena Headey does her iconic Game of Thrones counterpart proud, with plenty for fans and newbies to like/fear in ice-cold, crazy psycho villainess Ma-Ma, while Olivia Thirlby brings just enough warmth and vulnerability to her psychic newbie to humanise not only her odd couple cop buddy partnership, but Dredd himself.

Throw in a cracking Tron-esque bass-thumping soundtrack, some gorgeous, beautifully executed (albeit superfluous) 3D slo-mo, and a steady supply of gory and joltingly graphic violence (courtesy of Dredd's nifty Swiss Army Gun), and you've got a formula for a reboot of the best possible kind.