Judge Dredd: Karl Urban is the Law


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Dredd (Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey) is an exhilirating and bloody sci-fi. It is perhaps not as good as it could be (considering the immense potential of the source), but it is massively better – and may hopefully just wipe out your memory of – the rather awful Stallone version.

Screenwriter Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later, Sunshine) doesn’t waste time with back-story. A brief voiceover at the beginning lays out the world: America is an irradiated wasteland, and hundreds of millions of people live in concrete squalor in Mega-City One – a megalopolis that stretches from Boston to New York.

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Set almost entirely in one of the enormous tower blocks that dominate the cityscape, the film is a lean tale (perhaps a little too lean) of hide and seek. Dredd and his rookie partner are there to investigate a homicide; the drug lord Ma-Ma (Headey, very nasty) controls the tower block. She also controls all the slo-mo in the city. Slo-mo is a rather nifty drug that makes times feel as if it’s moving at 1% of its speed

She wants them dead before they discover the block is where she makes the drug. Dredd and his partner are massively outnumbered. That’s about it, and perhaps that’s all you really need for a film like this. It’s part High Noon, part Dirty Harry.

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It more than earns its R rating. The visuals and effects are very cool. It has its own look and doesn’t feel like it’s borrowing that much from other dystopic universes.

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For Dredd to work, you need an actor who you can believe will kill perps without hesitation or conscience, who can fill the suit realistically, and – crucially – who doesn’t need to take off the helmet. Urban doesn’t disappoint. He has the requisite jawline and Eastwoody whispered growl. When he says “I am the Law”, you believe it. Unlike this guy.

Unfortunately, a more than decent Judge Dredd, cool visuals and ultra-violence weren’t enough to get audiences to see it. It didn’t perform well at the box-office, so don’t expect a sequel.

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