In the future, America has become a radioactive wasteland with only a few settlements remaining. Perhaps the largest is the overpopulated and sprawling metropolis Mega City One. With over four hundred million citizens crammed inside the walls, the city is rife with violence and crime.
Attempting to keep order is a dedicated team of professional Judges, brave men and women who daily risk their lives patrolling the savage streets. Their role is not just to protect and serve, but dispense justice on the spot by becoming judge, jury and (when necessary) executioner.
Veteran Judge Dredd (KARL URBAN in a great performance) is ordered by the Chief Judge (RAKIE AYOLA) to take out rookie Cassandra Anderson (the gorgeous OLIVIA THIRLBY) and assess whether she has the qualities to become a member of the force. A mutant and powerful psychic, Anderson refuses to be intimidated by the ruthless Dredd and even spurns wearing a helmet as it stunts her psychic abilities.
Responding to a triple homicide call from the Peach Trees tower block, Dredd and Anderson discover the three males have been skinned and then tossed from a great height. The bodies also contain traces of the new drug Slo-Mo which once inhaled, gives the impression of time slowing down to a fraction of its normal speed.
Once the turf for several volatile and warring gangs, Peach Trees is now the home of just one clan led by the vicious Madeleine Madrigal, also known as Ma-Ma (LENA HEADEY), a former prostitute who has risen through the ranks and is now producing Slo-Mo with the intention of supplying the entire city.
Soon the two Judges are discovered and after numerous gang members are dispatched in a series of violent encounters, they gain a prisoner in Kay (WOOD HARRIS), one of the leading lights of the criminal organization. An interesting battle of wills begins between Kay and Anderson which results in increasingly bizarre and graphic mind games as they each try to gain the mental upper hand.
Meanwhile Ma-Ma locks down the building, cutting off escape, and orders the murder of the trapped Judges at all costs. She calls in the assistance of four corrupt law enforcers led by the unscrupulous Judge Lex (LANGLEY KIRKWOOD). With all communication from the outside world now jammed, and with little hope of rescue, can Dredd and Anderson survive against these great odds while putting an end to Ma-Ma and her production of Slo-Mo?
Much grittier and fan friendly than the (admittedly often fondly remembered) 1995 SYLVESTER STALLONE film featuring the same 2000AD character, URBAN plays Dredd as a futuristic Dirty Harry Callaghan. Although we see relatively little of Mega City One it does seem the realistic, run down and crime riddled metropolis we expect while the violence certainly necessitates the 18 age rating. Most of the action takes place within the walls of the sprawling Peach Trees complex and this helps create a claustrophobic, tension filled atmosphere which is sure to grip the audience.
There are niggles (such as Dredd being shot through the torso and after a quick field dressing behaving like it never happened) and while the film is mainly about setting the scene and developing the main characters, it is ready - indeed crying out for - a sequel.
Special Feature include 6 small topic segments (each on average a couple of minutes in length) and 9 interviews running to 26 minutes. Sadly this only skims over the very basics of the character and his world and while what here is okay, it must be seen as a missed opportunity.
Both 2D and 3D versions of the film are included and at only 100 minutes in length is not overlong. As an intense futuristic thriller, there is much to enjoy here!