If you were thrilled by Gareth Evans’s bone-crunching action hit The Raid back in May, then Pete Travis’s ultra-violent reboot of the 2000AD comic Judge Dredd will induce uneasy feelings of deja vu.
The dramatic set-up - a tower block siege, which can only be resolved by the gung-ho hero working his way to a kingpin’s lair on the top floor - appears to be almost identical.
So too is the script’s insatiable blood lust.
However, while The Raid orchestrated breathtakingly balletic fight sequences that were beautiful in their barbarity, Dredd takes a high-velocity gun to the heads of its nameless victims and splatters their brains across the camera lens.
Travis lingers on the carnage with the introduction of a designer drug called Slo-Mo, which - as the name suggests - reduces the speed of skirmishes to a crawl a la ‘bullet time’ in The Matrix, allowing us to see the trajectory of bullets as they scythe through flesh and explode internal organs with sickening fury.
It’s a blessed far cry from Danny Cannon’s ill-fated, cartoonish 1995 foray into this dystopian future with a chisel-jawed Sylvester Stallone in the title role.
In the near future, America has been reduced to an irradiated wasteland and more than 400 million people are crammed into Mega City One on the eastern seaboard, which is patrolled by law-makers called Judges.
The Chief Judge (Rakie Ayola) asks universally feared Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) to assess rookie Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a mutant with devastating psychic powers.
Reluctantly, Dredd mentors Anderson and they head to the Peach Trees mega-block, home to 60,000 impoverished denizens, to investigate reports of a triple homicide.
The Judges apprehend Kay (Wood Harris) for the murders and using her abilities, Anderson surmises that the suspect is linked to sadistic dealer Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and the supply of Slo-Mo.
Before Dredd and his protegee can interrogate Kay, Ma-Ma locks down Peach Trees and orders the hoodlums and lowlifes in the building to kill the interlopers.
Dredd opens with a frenetic motorcycle pursuit through the streets of Mega City One and director Travis keeps his foot on the accelerator for most of the film.
Urban scowls beneath his helmet, tossing out the occasional one-liner, while Thirlby adds a touch of humanity to the degradation.
Her troubled heroine is the only character with anything that resembles an emotional arc.
Headey chews scenery with obvious relish, defying macho conventions as a powerful woman in the patriarchal mire.
Special effects are solid and Travis acknowledges the 3D by throwing debris and severed limbs at the screen at regular intervals.
Adrenaline-junkies and hardcore fans of the comic should enjoy the unremittingly bleak rush.
Dredd released Friday September 7th 2012. Sci-Fi/Action/Thriller.
Featuring Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, Wood Harris, Warren Grier, Domhnall Gleeson, Rakie Ayola, Jason Cope.
Director: Pete Travis.
by Damon Smith