Directed by Pete Travis – Written by Alex Garland

Starring; Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby and Lena Headey

Amidst the grit, crime and vice in the dystopian Mega City One, Dredd (Karl Urban, Star Trek 2009) and rookie Judge, Cassandra Anderson (Thirlby, Juno 2007) find themselves heading out to a routine homicide in Peach Trees- a 200 storey slum tower block, run by the vicious and relentless Ma-Ma Gang. Having found three drug dealers skinned, infused with the new drug on the block, ‘Slo-Mo’ and thrown from the atrium of the top floor, Dredd and Anderson investigate further into the tower block- learning of the drug den which inadvertently leads them to Ma-Ma’s first henchman, whom Anderson’s psychic mind probe reveals to be the one who carried out the executions. Dredd decides to take him in for questioning. In fear of exposing her business and violent and gritty livelihood, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey, Game of Thrones 2010) forces control of the tower’s security and seizes the tower by sealing the behemoth, preventing the Judges from leaving with a paramount suspect.

Dredd and Anderson work their way up the tower block to Ma-Ma, taking out her bandits and- in a pre-empted twist, a few corrupted Judges- in some spectacularly well shot and violent scenes. The pursuit isn’t easy, but after almost casually blasting their way to the top floor, Ma-Ma reveals her big finale- the top floor is rigged with explosives and her heart beat is the trigger. However, the trigger only has a 50 floor radius…

The film, as much of a cult hit it already has been deemed, has received very high praise for its unique visual effects whilst characters were under the influence of ‘Slo-Mo’, and its take of the 3-D aspect (2-D Blu-Ray edition still looks incredibly beautiful). Its casting and action were also critiqued positively, and for good reason. Built on such a small budget, they made very good use of their shortcomings and Alex Garland creates an intricate, yet epically violent and typical plot so relevant to the Judge Dredd universe, nothing seems out of place.

The Score (by Paul Leonard-Morgan), as subtle at the best of times as it is, blends in a treat and keeps the pace of the film consistent and full of adrenaline, until the ‘Slo-Mo’ theme kicks in (derived from an unofficially altered Justin Bieber song slowed down 800 times) and everything is colourful and beautiful. My favourite quote from Garland sums the visual design up for me completely, he questions after extensive experimentation whether the slow motion techniques could be used with violence to make it purely aesthetic; “Can it be so abstract [violence] that it becomes genuinely beautiful? …really aesthetically beautiful even if someone is having their cheek blown out or their head crushing into concrete?”

Karl Urban’s performance makes the film what it is, the monotonous gravely voice, dead pan and gritty script is conveyed brilliantly through Urban’s stiff lips and heavy chin.  A true representation of Judge Dredd and its gritty British graphic novel background. His portrayal of Judge Dredd is far superior than that of Stallone’s (Judge Dredd 1995). Thirbly’s performance deserves credit also, as she subtly establishes an emotional contrast as the compassionate and understanding psychic.

If you like mindless violence, stiff upper lips and big chins- this is a must see.


– Christopher Asher

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