Dredd certainly doesn't make any secret of its intentions: it's here to be badass, no matter what you, the critics or anyone else has to say about it. So for those who value words like "family-friendly" and "moderation", take your popcorn and head for the nearest exit, because you're probably sitting in the wrong theatre.
Brain-dead as it may appear though, it's actually a lot more refined than you may first believe. The dialogue won't grab the attention of any serious award-shows, but it succeeds in what it sets out do, delivering a fun and action-packed bullet-fest well in accordance with its comic-book origins.
What fascinates the most is the harsh and post-apocalyptic setting: a dystopian America, which due to nuclear war, has become an irradiated wasteland, cramming 800 million people into the gargantuan Mega City 1. Plagued by overwhelming crime rates, things like courts and lawyers have been completely disbanded, in favor of the so called "Judges" - an all-controlling authority who act as judge, jury and executioner. Among these is Judge Dredd, our square-jawed leading character, who as we enter the story, has been assigned with investigating a triple homicide in one of the mega-complexes of the city. Alongside is Cassandra Anderson, a rookie in the force who tags along with Dredd as part of her evaluation.
It's the The Raid meets Escape from New York, when the mega-complex turns out to be the headquarters of a savage clan of criminals, who are distributing a new drug throughout the city called "Slow-Mo", which (as the name suggests) makes its users experience time at only 1% of the normal speed. An effect which, throughout the film, is also brilliantly utilized as an ultra-cool visual highlight.
Beneath the big helmet of Judge Dredd, is a laconic Karl Urban, who really nails the no-nonsense attitude required for the role. The character who appealed to me the most though was Olivia Thirlby as Cassandra - the young, aspiring Judge, who due to a genetic mutation has the psychic power to read and enter people's minds. Another formidable presence is Game of Thrones star Lena Headey, in a commanding performance as Ma-Ma, the leader of the ruthless gangster clan.
There may not be much in terms of character development, but I suppose that's grasping at straws, in consideration to what we're dealing with here. It's not a 19th century period drama and should not be treated as such. Besides, as far as re-makes go, this is one of the better ones I've seen and one of the rare few instances where a new adaptation was completely justified. And as much as I'm a fan of Sylvester Stallone, I'm not gonna deny that the precursor from -95 was mostly camp and misfires.
In an ironic twist of fate, however, this altogether superior version really bombed at the box-office. For one reason or another, audiences failed to show up, which is a pity indeed as it deserves so much more. Either way, I'm definitely counting it among my favourite action films of 2012. It may be grimy, unapologetic and hyper-violent to its very core. But have no fear, citizen. For there is nothing to dread but Dredd himself.