Judge Dredd, or to give him his full name, Judge Joseph Dredd is a fictional character from the comic strip in the British science fiction anthology 2000 AD. Dredd is the magazine’s longest running character, having been featured in it since its second issue in 1977 (when 2000AD seemed a long way off). Judge Dredd is a futuristic American law enforcement officer in the violent city of Mega City One, a violent metropolis containing 800 million residents where 17,000 crimes are reported daily. Crime is so rife in Dredd’s dystopian future that uniformed Judges have the powers of police, judge, jury and (all too often) executioner.
Back in 1995 a god-awful film version Judge Dredd starring Sly Stallone was came out, flopped and was soon embarrassingly forgotten. The film was dreadful on many levels, not least it’s inclusion of a comedy sidekick to Dredd; Rob Schneider as “wisecracking” criminal Herman ‘Fergee’ Ferguson, a flying motorbike, Dredd removing his helmet (a sin!), a love interest (Judges DON’T HAVE EMOTIONS!) and the shoehorning in of a nonsensical catchphrase “I knew you’d say that”. The 1995 Judge Dredd was a prime example of cart before horse filming making, the producers obviously would not allow an expensive actor such as Sylvester Stallone to never show his face, hence cardinal sin #1 was committed, the helmet came off. Catchphrases are funny so sin #2 was green lit. Funny = box office, so sin in the form of Schneider was encouraged. The film was targeted at teens so the violence was toned down to qualify as a PG-13 rating. And on and on, until the result was a colossal “why bother?”
Dredd 2012 gets things right!
It is directed by Pete Travis and written by Alex Garland, who seem to “get” the idea behind the man (behind the mask). The helmet stays on, dialogue remains spare, “I am the law”, the romance and comedy are swiftly 86’d, and the 3D adds to the action rather than distracting from it.
On just another day on the Mega City beat Judge Dredd has to supervise a female rookie (played by Olivia Thirlby, FYI who stars in Nobody Walks Indie “hit” which is to be avoided) in the ways of his fascistic, vigilante police force. A heinous crime calls them to a tower block where Judges rarely dare to venture; a 200 story vertical slum controlled by prostitute turned drug lord Ma-Ma (the very excellent Lena Headey) and her ruthless gang who peddle “Slo-Mo”, a new drug which slows the user’s perception of time to 1% of normal (cue lots of sexy slow mos).
Ma-Ma demands that Dredd and Anderson are killed (yes, it’s like The Raid, but no, you shouldn’t care). Fight follows fight follows fight as the Judges proceed upwards through the building, letting Dredd dispense justice (death) and precious few quips. It’s worth mentioning that Judge Cassandra Anderson (a 2D comic book crush of my youth) is a mutant with powerful psychic abilities which allows her to sense the emotions of others. Anderson’s powers are a useful plot device, but one that stays true to the source comic book.
That’s it, but that’s all you need from Judge Dredd, roll on the sequel!