The future America is an irradiated waste land. On its East Coast, running from Boston to Washington DC, lies Mega City One- a vast, violent metropolis where criminals rule the chaotic streets. The only force of order lies with the urban cops called "Judges" who possess the combined powers of judge, jury and instant executioner. Known...
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The future America is an irradiated waste land. On its East Coast, running from Boston to Washington DC, lies Mega City One- a vast, violent metropolis where criminals rule the chaotic streets. The only force of order lies with the urban cops called "Judges" who possess the combined powers of judge, jury and instant executioner. Known and feared throughout the city, Dredd is the ultimate Judge, challenged with ridding the city of its latest scourge - a dangerous drug epidemic that has users of "Slo-Mo" experiencing reality at a fraction of its normal speed.
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This review was originally printed as part of Hollywood.com's Comic-Con 2012 coverage
A reimagining of the 2000 AD label comic book that inspired Judge Dredd, the 1994 Sylvester Stallone action flick that took sci-fi wackiness to new heights, Dredd scales back on the futuristic elements and puts an emphasis on the brutality in store for the Judge's criminal victims. In this not-so-distant world, a Judge has the power to decide your fate right upon capture — and usually, the sentence involves some type of ammunition being fired into the offender's skull. Dredd is a grimy, smoldering, relentless 90 minutes that manages to inject its in-your-face fight scenes with an unexpected bit of humanity. Shocking, considering the buckets of blood spilled during Judge Dredd's warpath, which begins from his very first appearance.
This time around, Dredd is played by Karl Urban, a chiseled beast of a dude who balances the machismo with a healthy dose of one-liner comedy. A great central hero. To investigate a series of murders connected to one of Mega City 1's most notorious crime figureheads, Dredd is partnered with an exact opposite: Cassandra (Olivia Thirlby), a new recruit who makes up for her lack of killer instinct with a mutant psychic power. She may not have the throat-ripping capabilities of Dredd, but once this girl gets in a baddie's head, it's over. Dredd is wary of his new sidekick potential — even more so when the challenge they face reveals itself. Cooped up at the top of a 120+ story building is Ma-Ma (Lena Hedley), whose operation will soon put a new drug — dubbed ''Slo-Mo'' — in the hands of every Mega City 1 citizen. To stop her, Dredd and Cassandra must slay her goons as they ascend the skyscraper. Simple premise, lots of bloodshed.
Unlike this year's The Raid, which took a similar approach to the non-stop antics of a martial arts film, Dredd opts for the slow burn approach. Director Pete Travis (Vantage Point) wants us to take a big whiff of every musky apartment in Ma-Ma's ''Peach Trees'' tower; he wants us to feel every drip of sweat that trickles down Dredd's stubble, while the law enforcer waits patiently to attack; he wants us to feel the complete stop of time when the Slo-Mo drug kicks in and even droplets of suddy bath water hang in the air from a splash; and he wants us to feel like we're in the front seat of a Gallagher show when Dredd fires an explosive bullet into the mouth of a henchman and watches the head explode into bits (all in clear and crisp 3D). Dredd is near-fetishistic in its approach to gore - I found myself mouth agape making audible ''EEEEEEEEAAAAH'' sounds throughout the film — but plays well to the lead character's ferocious nature.
The hyper-style doesn't end with Dredd's unique array of finishing moves either; Cassandra's telepathy is a weapon of the senses that Travis mines for every flashy montage sequence he can squeeze out of it. In one sequence, Cassandra uncovers an important clue by subjecting one of Ma-Ma's assailants to mental torture, a terrifying whirlwind of imagery of saturated nightmares (if you've ever watched Saw after scarfing down an undercooked burrito, you know what I mean). Travis amps ''MTV editing'' in these sequences, an assault to the senses that's just as purposefully grating as the gritty fight sequences.
What makes the whole thing worth watching are the film's two leads. Urban has the thankless task of playing Dredd under the Judge's signature mask — someone obviously forgot to tell the police force of the future that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Urban makes up for it with a spectrum of snarls and a voice that sends chills down the spine. He also knows his way around comedy timing (as evidenced by his equally-impressive performance as Bones in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek), delivering kitschy zingers that click with Dredd's rough and tough world. The yin to his yang, Cassandra could have been another helpless female costar
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