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‘Dredd’ a graphically good time

Article Published: Sep. 27, 2012 | Modified: Sep. 27, 2012
‘Dredd’ a graphically good time

Karl Urban stars in 'Dredd.'

The 1990s brought forth a brief cinematic era known as the Stallone Age.

Sylvester Stallone was an action staple of the silver screen, butting heads with Wesley Snipes in “Demolition Man,” facing off with Antonio Banderas in “Assassins,” romancing Sharon Stone in “The Specialist” and quipping with, uhh, Rob Schneider in “Judge Dredd.”

Granted, none of those are quintessential entries in blockbuster action cinema, but the latter seemed the most forgettable, or, at least, the one we wanted to forget the most.

While an ambitious attempt at translating the cult comic, “Judge Dredd,” to the big screen, it’s remembered mainly for Stallone’s infamous line, “Iamdalaw!”

2012’s revisit, simple titled “Dredd,” scraps the cartoonish feel of the 1995 version for a much darker atmosphere – and not just for the sake of being dark, like most remakes these days.

Director Pete Travis (“Endgame”) presents a visually compelling take on the character and his violent exploits, playing it like a live-action graphic novel, complete with comically (as in comic-esque) stylized gore.

It’s also the rare modern feature that actually benefits from a 3-D presentation, which effectively brings the comic to life with certain special effects that are nothing short of dazzling.

The action is nonstop from the get-go, hearkening back to the actioners of the ’80s, in terms of no-holds-barred, gleefully over-the-top violence. Rather than rubber prosthetics and orange-ish blood from that era, “Dredd” uses CGI for most of its blood splatter – obviously fake, but in a “that’s the point” sort of way.

It doesn’t take itself too seriously, which works tremendously to its benefit.

In this go-around, Karl Urban (2009’s “Star Trek”) dons the helmet of Judge Dredd, a law enforcer in a horrifically dystopian future. Following some unmentioned cataclysm, most of the world is irradiated and uninhabitable, save for a number of sprawling, densely populated cities – one of which is Mega City One, spanning a generous chunk of the United States’ Eastern seaboard.

Crime is rampant, and the legal system all but been abolished, replaced by an organization called the Hall of Justice. Police officers – now called judges – serve as judge, jury and executioner in order to rapidly dispense said justice.

Dredd is one of the best, which is why he’s assigned a rookie, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby, “No Strings Attached”), to evaluate for a day. Anderson, however, isn’t any ordinary trainee. With her family having been affected by radiation, she was born with psychic abilities, which the Hall of Justice feels could be a valuable asset.

Dredd and Anderson respond to a triple homicide call at a massive, skyscraping tenement, which they soon learn is controlled by a vicious drug kingpin – or queenpin – called Ma-Ma (Lena Headey, HBO’s “Game of Thrones”).

Ma-Ma’s mass-producing a drug called Slo-Mo, an inhalant that causes users to perceive time at a fraction of its normal speed, which allows for some pretty stunning 3-D effects.

Realizing that the judges are on to her, she seals off the entire building and places a price on their heads – and on those of any tenants who offer to help them.

With the odds stacked against them, Dredd and Anderson must work their way to the top floor and a confrontation with Ma-Ma, but, of course, it’s a long and bloody climb.

Whereas Stallone played Dredd as Stallone, Urban’s Dredd has more of an Clint Eastwoodian “Man with No Name” persona. He’s a man of few words – raspy, growled words, at that – and mysterious origins. Like the Man with No Name, there’s very little character development – he’s already established, and that’s all the audience needs to know in this case. We never even see his full face.
What character development there is, like in those spaghetti westerns, is left to secondary characters, namely Anderson.

These are comic book characters, after all, and writer Alex Garland (“28 Days Later”) deftly draws the lines and colors them in, reveling in this style of storytelling.

And the actors succeed at bringing them to life. Urban’s deadpan delivery and perpetual scowl help define the character. Thirlby does well as a rookie experiencing living hell on her first day at work, while Headey exudes junky menace – rotting teeth and all – as Ma-Ma.

It’s certainly not for the squeamish (and not just because of those teeth), but “Dredd” is a bloody good time at the movies.

“Dredd,” rated R for strong bloody violence, language, drug use and some sexual content, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit

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