Karl Urban Brings New Life To The Man Of The Law
First off let’s go ahead and get the blasphemy out of the way. I liked Sylvester Stallone’s Judge Dredd. It is a guilty pleasure for me. Like Demolition Man or Cobra, it was a big dumb action movie that promised a lot of explosions and Stallone overacting and it’s exactly what you got. It doesn’t apologize for it’s shallowness and it really doesn’t need to for an action movie. Now that we have that out of the way how does the 2012 version stand up to the mostly reviled 1995 flick? Dredd takes it’s predecessor out back and judges it guilty then puts one clean in the head.
The judges are the police force in Mega City One, a massive concrete jungle with a population of almost a billion people. After a brief introduction to Judge Dredd complete with motorcycle chase and harsh judgment of a trio of criminals, Dredd is called back to the Hall of Justice where he is given a rookie to give his assessment on in the field. But this rookie is unlike any others because she is a psychic and despite being on the low end of testing is believed to be worth a badge because of her abilities. The two go to investigate a murder call at Peachtrees which is a “megablock”, a huge building that houses thousands of people and here is where you spend the rest of the movie.
Peachtrees is under control of Ma Ma, a woman who controls the manufacturing of the newest hit drug on the street known as Slow-Mo. Not wanting to let the judges leave nice and quietly Ma Ma has the building locked down and sends all of her men hunting after them. One of the reasons Dredd works is that it keeps the action confined to enclosed spaces. In essence, it goes Die Hard with the action. Dredd and his partner are on a track to mow through every criminal from floor one all the way to two hundred. If this movie had tried to be a spawling sci-fi, futuristic epic it would have lost some of it’s appeal.
I think I would define the shootouts in the film as beautifully gory. Blood flows freely and often complete with exploding heads and visceral slow motion bullet piercings. It easily earns it’s R rating and some folks may find it gratuitous but I felt it holds true to the character’s comic roots. Anything less would have seemed like a cop out by the film makers and thankfully there were no compromises made.
One problem many had with the Stallone version was he spent half the movie sans helmet in an attempt to humanize Judge Dredd. Karl Urban had gone on record while they were filming that you would never and should never see Dredd without his headwear and they have stuck to their guns here. All you see is a black visor and Urban’s grisled mug scowling the whole movie. Urban, over the past ten years has carved a niche by taking over roles and making them completely his. From Eomer in The Lord of the Rings to his amazing turn as Dr. McCoy in Star Trek and even to lesser extent as “Reaper” in Doom and now with Dredd Urban keeps adding to his bada** character profile. Hearing him say “I am the law” should put a devilish smile on any fans face.
Olivia Thirlby plays Dredd’s rookie psychic partner Anderson with an emotional strength that shows a few cracks but never breaks and Lena Headey is almost unrecognizable as the scarred up drug queen Ma Ma. Past that the rest of the cast should be filed under gun fodder, simply there for our twisted viewing pleasure.
Dredd is a dirty, bloody and borderline NC-17 violent movie that keeps the spirit of the almost 40 year old character alive and well. Fans of the character, comics in general and utter gruesome violence should go and see this. And see it quickly.