Judge Joseph Dredd is a fictional character from the British science fiction anthology 2000 AD and is the magazine's longest running character having been featured within it's pages since its second issue in 1977. For people not aware Dredd is a law enforcement officer in a violent North American city of the future called Mega City One. It's here that uniformed Judges combine the powers of police, judge, jury and executioner. Dredd and his fellow Judges are empowered to arrest, sentence, and even execute criminals on the spot.
My first experience of Judge Dredd was as a teenager back in the 90's where I would sit in my local library and read complete books starring him. The stories were often quite graphic in violence but also had the charm of being able to pull of emotional elements such as humour, sadness and in some cases thought provoking dilemma.
That was all I knew of Dredd really until the infamous 1995 film starring Sylvester Stallone as the no nonsense lawman of the future. The visual effects and designs in the film were brilliant but the major problem was Stallone. His performance in the film bares no resemblance to the the dark and gritty anti hero of Judge Dredd I remember in the comic strip. He also breaks the rule most hardcore Dredd fans were annoyed about. He removes the helmet.
Part of the mystery of Dredd was the fact you never see his face making him more mysterious and just the face of the law. Last time I looked someone had posted the full movie on You Tube so if you have never seen it then check it out. I'll be honest when I say it's an enjoyable film but not a very good representation of the character if you ask me.
Fast forward seventeen years and the Peter Travis/Alex Garland movie DREDD is absolutely nothing like the Stallone film. It's a million times better.
Any worries about it being as bad as the Stallone movie are all shot down in the opening chase scene and the amount of bullets, action and gore that follows.
"Sir, helmets interfere with my psychic abilities."
"Think a bullet in the head might interfere with them more."
Karl Urban is Dredd and was born to play this role. He delivers the serious nature of the character while still giving him a bit of humanity. It's another fine edition to his already growing CV and shows what a chameleon he is when it comes to the different roles he takes. He manages to balance the harshness of Dredd while still managing to make you smile at the sly humour he puts across with some of his lines and actions.
The rest of the cast do their job well. Olivia Thirlby (an actress I hadn't heard of before this) is excellent as Psi Judge Cassandra Anderson. Tough, sexy and providing a spark of humanity and idealism to counter Dredd's more cynical outlook. I do think Lena Headey's Ma-Ma could of used some more screen time and a bit more fleshing out character wise though.
While she was a threat in all the scenes she was in when I look back now she doesn't actually do much. I did enjoy the slo-mo and psychic effects. They are suitably trippy.
Mega City One (the small glimpses we see of it) is perfectly envisioned to suit the brutal look of the film. I'll admit it wasn't translated from the comics 100% but it works in the context of the film and the characters, and that is far better than just simply copying what existed on the page.
I also love Paul Leonard-Morgan's electronic music for the film. I picked up the soundtrack a while back and it's worth a listen on it's own.
I am absolutely gutted though that it's unlikely there will be a sequel due to bad box office takings. This film deserved to do much better yet I think people were put off for many reasons that escape me.
I keep my fingers crossed in hope.