1995 saw a small but significant percentage of the population act as if their hearts and souls has been ripped out for something as superficial as profit. The hated Danny Cannon film saw Stallone's Judge Dredd not only try to appeal to the younger audience through humour BUT even more unforgivable, remove his helmet and show his face.
Fans of the 2000 A.D. comic hero did not take this sacrilege lightly and Stallone, Cannon and any chance of a sequel were promptly laid to rest. Judge Dredd had become a victim of his own quick routine of "judge, jury and executioner."
Take a jump 17 years into the future and director Pete Travis seems hellbent on making sure that his version of Mega City One's finest does not end up the same way. For a start there's no A-list celebrity cast as Dredd who doesn't want their face hidden behind a mask/helmet the entire film even if that is an integral part of the character. Step up Urban who, with his stints in Lord Of The Rings and The Bourne Supremacy, has shown he can do both heroism and detached killer - the perfect combination for the feared and fearless Judge Dredd.
The other way that Travis and screenwriter Garland make their incarnation independent is by fully embracing its 18 Certificate. No "distant deaths" are displayed here - blood and guts are the order of the day, in full blown 3D. Bodies are skinned and thrown 200 storeys down onto hard, unrelenting concrete; a henchman's throat is clearly broken and punctured from a run in with Dredd; bullets rip through faces and bodies in comic-book coloured "slo-mo" to reflect the effect that the films drug has on its users - the brain slows down to 1% it's normal date therefore the users feel and see all in slow motion. Picture The Matrix's "bullet time effect" and add bright red blood to the equation and you get the gist. The introduction of Headey's MaMa villain (as beautifully rendered in the trailer) sitting in the bath with simple hand movements causing a glittering monsoon upon the screen, shows just how stunning the affect can be when not depicting the OTT violence.
Headey, who knows how to rock the "evil bitch" role from Game Of Thrones, is never given the scope or the dialogue to recreate another great-to-hate character, as most of the time it's her minions that encounter Dredd and his rookie- on-assessment, Anderson. MaMa sits and waits mostly in her penthouse for the cop and his rookie to make their way to her as their only way out of the looked-down block after her tannoy announcement for everyone within to bring her their heads. For those of you who read these reviews regularly, this will sound more than familiar - it's pretty much the plot for one of the best action films of this year: The Raid. Due to one of those frequent unfortunate timings that seems to hit Hollywood where, like buses, 3 films come along about the same time that all appear to be so similar, Dredd's main plot runs like the Korean action flick, even down to the main villain broadcasting the presence of the heroes and demanding their deaths. The main difference though between the two is that The Raid rarely lets up on the shocking-action-front whereas Dredd takes moments for some characterisation - not for Urban's Dredd obviously, who grunts and minimum-sentence utters his way through the film but for Thirlby's psychic rookie who with each bullet fired moves from wet-behind-the-ears to serious Judge material.
Alot more fun than you feel you should have what with all the slo-mo deaths and blood galore, this new version of Dredd is, like X-Men was, a decent start at a franchise that leaves you curious and happy for another visit to its realm and characters. Contained in just a small portion of Mega City One, readers of the comic strip will know that there is so much more that can be used and abused in any sequel - all they have to do is keep Urban and Thirlby onboard, keep the helmet on and keep the mystery of the man that is Dredd... No flashbacks, no delving into his past - just present him as the mean, lean judging machine that he is.
He is the law!
UK release date: 07.09.12