Unlike the 1995 Stallone action vehicle, this is a worthwhile adaptation of the venerable comic book antihero's exploits.
To simplify, in the near future, the U.S. is a post-apocalyptic dystopia where most of the country is divided up into massive cities. Mega City One encompasses most of the east coast from Boston to D.C. and is where this story is set. The land is policed by Judges- ultra militaristic law enforcers who swiftly act as judges, juries, and executioners.
Dredd is a renowned Judge, and this film represents a basic day in his life. On this particular day he is assigned to have a rookie judge named Cassanda Anderson follow him along, and he is to evaluate if she is worthy of being a judge. This is really important too since she had previously failed, but only by a narrow margin. What makes Anderson special is that she is a "mutant" with some rather powerful psychic abilities.
Seeing as they can only respond to so many calls at once, our pair decide to tackle a case at a massive 200 story housing block ghetto controlled by the ruthless drug pusher Ma-Ma, whose latest potent product, the highly addictive Slo-Mo makes the user experience things at 1% normal speed.
It's not long after their arrival at the building that the pair are trapped, and forced to fight the veritable army of violent residents in order to get to the main prize at the top level.
As far as plot, that's pretty much it. There's controversy about this plot being similar to the one of The Raid: Redemption, but apparently, even though that came first, this one was in development first, and just took longer to get released.
Bottom line: I liked this movie, A lot. Yeah, it's a simple and straight forward bare bones plot, but sometimes, that's all you really need. It's lean, mean, stylish as hell, and brutally entertaining. I unfortunately didn't get to see it in 3D, but I hear it was used rather effectively, especially during the awesome slow-motion sequences which, besides functioning as eye candy, actually figured into the plot as well.
The film is light on character development, but we're given enough to where we care, and, in the case of Anderson, have an actual arc that gives a tad bit of weight and emotion to the proceedings.
So, even though the film is more style than substance, it really excels, and delivers the goods in a kick ass way, with lots of bloodshed, often brutal, and sometimes quite graphic. During the slow-mo scenes especially we really get a lot of jaw-dropping money shots.
There's of course a justifiable reason for the violence, but unfortunately, some people still don't get it and slam the movie anyway.
I personally felt it did justice to the comics, served the story, and helped make it the strong film that it is, especially considering the modest budget it was made for. And that is something I'm a fan of. I love it when modest budget indie films make the most with what they have and rise above the limitations set before them.
Karl Urban is as cold as steel as the hard-assed non nonsense Judge Dredd. It's impressive how he managed to convey all that he needed to without showing any part of his face above the bottom of his nose thanks to the helmet his character characteristically never removes. Olivia Thirlby is quite good and convincing as the rookie Anderson, and I think she could reasonably succeed at taking on more action oriented roles in the future. Lena Heady is fine, though a tad underwhelming as Ma-Ma, but, like Thirlby, it was nice seeing her in a role like this.
With a tight pace, and a suitably grim and grungy aesthetic, this is a solid action romp that really rocks. Unfortunately it is also underappreciated, but hopefully that changes, and enough support is garnered to get this film a sequel, because, in all honesty, this is a film that actually earns the right to have a sequel, especially if it's done as good as, if not better than this one.