If you've ever wondered about the damage a bullet can do to a man's cheekbone (in slow-motion and in 3D, no less), then 'Dredd' is right up your alley. This hyper-violent, sadistic film turns the shock value up to 11, and makes no apologies.
'Dredd' is the second film adaptation of the 'Judge Dredd' British comic book series by writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra. The 1995 Sylvester Stallone vehicle was pure camp, with SNL-outcast Rob Schneider thrown in for comic relief. The latest incarnation takes itself very seriously, and goes for the jugular with its intense, bleak outlook at a world gone wrong.
Set sometime after an apocalyptic event has destroyed most of America, Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is part of an elite group of cops who serve as judge, jury and executioner. Dredd is the best of the best, an anti-hero who begrudgingly takes on the assignment to train and evaluate Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a rookie with a gift the police force desperately wants at their disposal. While investigating a (routine) triple homicide, the two find themselves trapped in a 200-story slum house run by Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), who's drug Slo-Mo is wreaking havoc throughout the city.
The story is quite similar to the recent South Korean actioner 'The Raid: Redemption', minus the martial arts and the style. The script written by Alex Garland ('The Beach', '28 Days Later') is bare bones action, with about five pages of dialogue peppered throughout the entire film. Character development is virtually non-existent, but fortunately the actors do not feel the need to over-compensate by chewing up the scenery.
Karl Urban is completely anonymous as Dredd: he never takes off his mask. But he does deliver his lines with a scruffy, deadpan flair that does bring a touch of levity to the heavy handedness of the film. Lena Headey ('Game of Thrones') is wasted in her role as the former prostitute turned drug kingpin, Ma-Ma. The character is so cliched she practically sleepwalks her way through it.
But this film is all about the cathartic release from watching violence, and oh, how violent it is! Women and children are never spared and body parts (literally) burst in blood. Add to the mix a trio of weapons that would make Rambo blush and you're pretty much in store for 95 minutes of check your brain at the door action.
'Dredd' is so over the top it makes 'The Expendables 2' look like a Disney film. But in the cinematic world of violent escapism, sometimes that's not such a bad thing.