Sylvestor Stallone is gone, but Judge Dredd is back in Dredd, a movie no one asked for but got anyway. In this case, however, Dredd is a fun surprise, a movie that won't win any awards but revels in its simplicity and benefits from slick direction and a violent script.
Karl Urban stars as Judge Dredd, who takes a trainee named Anderson (a very blond Olivia Thirlby) into a massive mixed-use building that is ruled by a not-so-pleasant drug lord known as Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). The two find themselves locked inside the gigantic structure and decide to go on the offensive, ascending floor by floor to inflict their own form of justice.
Think of The Raid: Redemption minus the kung fu and subtitles.
Dredd harkens back to action movies of old, which is ironic because it is much better than the original Stallone version (it should be noted that, unlike most critics, I do not have negative feelings toward the 1995 film, but it should also be noted that I was only thirteen at the time and thus enjoyed anything with Stallone in it). There isn't much of a plot, the villain is one dimensional and though there aren't very many remarkable action scenes, there are a lot of them, and yet Dredd works nonetheless.
Director Pete Travis (Vantage Point) and writer Alex Garland (28 Days Later) are to thank for producing an efficient movie that never takes the foot off the pedal, but holds back just enough so that it isn't a nonstop blur of pointless action. The action is violent, but Travis and Garland insert enough pauses for character development.
Urban, whose face is never seen because Dredd never takes his helmet off, has good chemistry with Thirlby; the two make a surprisingly effective team. Thirlby's mild psychic abilities add some intrigue, even if they don't serve much purpose other than to put her into a couple of sexual situations.
Dredd isn't spectacular, but it's fun, entertaining and mildly thrilling. As judge, jury and executioner, I give Dredd a reprieve.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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