Available from Jan. 8 until May 7th, 2013 on Rogers On Demand (Channel 100) and online at RogersAnyplaceTV.com
On the surface, Dredd is a grim tale of futuristic urban warfare in a totalitarian world. Thankfully, it has very little in common with the rather smug, tongue-in-cheek 1995 version (Judge Dredd) starring Sylvester Stallone. Both are based on the British comic book series of the 1970s.
Unlike the original, this new version lacks any satirical overtones, though it does possess a sly sense of humour. Mostly, it’s a hugely entertaining cat-and-mouse pursuit, alternating spectacular chase sequences with abrupt, brutal confrontations, all directed with panache by Englishman Pete Travis (Vantage Point, Endgame).
This is a ferociously elemental tale, gaining much of its power from its claustrophobic and paranoid simplicity. Our hero, the cop Judge Dredd (Karl Urban), is pretty much a law unto himself – utterly ruthless in dispensing his often questionable form of justice.
Alongside his novice partner Judge Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), Dredd pursues a gang member suspected of a triple homicide into a dark, labyrinthian 200-story highrise that is little more than a vertical slum, and controlled by powerful drug lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey from Game of Thrones). She promptly shuts down the tower by bringing down slabs of metal, completely isolating the two cops from the outside world. Ma-Ma orders the cops to be located and killed. The hunt is on.
Thirlby in particular shines as a cop on probation, but who has the facility to read minds. Complicating matters is that the drug called Slo-Mo, which is dispensed by the criminals, slows the user’s perception of time.
It should be noted that the film is graphically violent. And no, Judge Dredd never does remove his helmet. Justice, apparently, is faceless. There is an inescapable resonance here about our own contemporary ambivalence regarding the often blurred line between retribution and justice.