I first heard of Judge Dredd from my friend Grahame in high school back in the 1980's. Growing up on a strict diet of DC and Marvel, my knowledge of British comics (or those from countries other than America for that matter) was virtually non-existent, and it took a limey bloke with a cockney accent to expand my rather limited horizons.
In case you're unfamiliar with the popular British anti-hero previously featured in an ill-conceived movie starring Sly Stallone some 17 years ago, Judge Dredd is the British answer to 'The Dark Knight,' defender of the law in the crime-infested metropolis Mega-City One. In an urban jungle gripped by constant violence and ruled by fear, Dredd and his fellow Judges stand as lone bastions of order and justice against all evil-doers, shining beacons of light in a sea of darkness and chaos. Judge, jury and executioner all-in-one, Judges dispense justice at the end of a gun barrel because the dystopian future in which they live is one of "continual fear and danger of violent death, where the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" that demands no less. I just quoted Thomas Hobbes, by the way.
'Dredd’ is another entertaining sci-fi action movie in a year that already had its share of such movies including ‘Total Recall,’ ‘Lockout’ and ‘Looper.’ Karl Urban is well cast as the slab-jawed Dredd, whose black-and-white sense of justice, wooden bearing, flat monotone and seeming lack of personality bring to mind another mechanical do-gooder, Peter Weller’s ‘Robocop.’ While the ‘Die Hard’ premise of ‘Dredd’ is a well-trodden one we’ve seen many times before, most recently in ‘Lockout’ and ‘The Raid’ (both of which I’ve reviewed in this blog earlier), this movie nonetheless pulled it off because it was crafted with such panache and sure-handed “execution” (no pun intended, okay maybe just a little). Unwavering in his ideals and certain of his convictions, Dredd is a force for Justice as implacable and immovable as a rock, the quintessential cinematic action hero. Olivia Thirlby, as the rookie (Judge trainee) Cassandra Anderson whose 'training day' proved to be more than she bargained for, contrasted Dredd nicely with her more sympathetic and humane presence. And in her first villainous role, Lena Headley was simply marvelous as Ma-Ma, a prostitute-turned-drug lord whose end in slo-mo gave literal meaning to the term ‘poetic justice.'