As tough guys go, they don't get any tougher than Judge Dredd. This futuristic lawman is not a superhero. He doesn't have a cape, or wear undies outside his tights. He's just a man who uses brute force, gladiator-like guile, and a limited but staunch vocabulary to catch, judge, and, if necessary, execute the bad guys.

So he can be a rather robotic being, which is why it's remarkable Kiwi actor Karl Urban - in his biggest role yet - manages to make the protector of Mega-City One a living breathing bloke. Although not too real, because he is an uncompromising yet reasoned wrecking machine, after all.

And what makes it even more impressive is that we only see Urban's chin and jaw throughout the whole of Dredd because he never takes his helmet off. This is real deal Dredd, and a fitting adaptation of the comic book created by writer John Wagner in the late 70s. Which also means it's a vast improvement on the Sylvester Stallone version of the 90s.

The story is simple. After a routine call-out to investigate the dumping of three skinned bodies at a tower block slum known as Peach Trees, Dredd and his sidekick Judge Anderson find themselves in a battle to bring down demented drug lord Ma-Ma. She controls the majority of the Slo-Mo trade, a drug where users experience reality at a fraction of its normal speed.


The majority of the film takes place inside Peach Trees, which is home to 200,000 residents, and the world that British director Pete Travis and writer Alex Garland (28 Days Later) conjure up is deliciously gritty, desperate and extremely violent.

Some of the film's most clever moments - though not exactly new in movie making - come when the action is slowed down as someone falls 200 storeys to their death, or are shot at close range after taking a puff on their Slo-Mo inhaler (which looks exactly like an asthma puffer might look in the future).

Adding to the intensity of the action is the industrial carnage and onslaught of the soundtrack music which is akin to Nine Inch Nails, only more frenzied.

Though not a big name cast, Headey (best known from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and as the conniving Lannister queen in Game of Thrones) as Ma-Ma is one of the scariest, most ruthless villains the movie world has seen in recent years, and up-and-coming actress Olivia Thirlby brings a quirky hotness to the role of Anderson.

The one thing the film could have done with more of is Dredd's motorbike, a hulking, almost clumsy looking, yet rocket-fast machine that only appears in the opening chase scene. Dredd racing round the corridors of Peach Trees slaughtering bad guys would have been an extra treat.

But other than that it's bloody, brutal and brilliant. Bring on the next instalment.

Stars: 4/5
Cast: Karl Urban, Lena Headey, Olivia Thirlby
Director: Pete Travis
Rating: R18 (Graphic violence and offensive language)
Running time: 96 mins
Verdict: A brutal and gritty tale especially for comic and action movie fans

- TimeOut