The comic 2000 AD was ubiquitous when I was a child. Its principle character was Judge Dredd, an almost ridiculously exaggerated version of the Hollywood action man that was so popular in the 1980s: muscular, militaristic, ultra-macho to the point of sadism, humourless (apart from the occasional sub-James Bond pun). I found him a deeply unlikeable character, and although I had friends who loved the comic I don’t remember reading one of this stories all the way through.
I saw the film version at the cinema with a friend just as something to watch, but I wasn’t particularly excited by it, even though it was written by Dredd-fan Alex Garland, who was a long-time collaborator with director Danny Boyle before directing his own films such as Ex Machina and Annihilation.
The film basically strips away all the cartoonish excess (or most of it at least), and instead creates one of the best action films I’ve ever seen. It looks like no other film. It has an amazing cast. And Karl Urban as Dredd is suddenly a fascinating, albeit mysterious character, who is clearly repressing some kind of dark and disturbing shit, but turns out to actually be a gruffly moral character. Although Olivia Thirby almost steals the show as a rookie with psychic powers. (Look out also for Domhnall Gleeson in a minor part, and Lena Headey as one of the greatest screen villains I’ve ever seen.)
It is properly violent. But it’s also imaginative, beautifully paced, and even, weirdly, kind of haunting.
Current Favourite Thing:
Judge Dredd’s catchphrase was always “I am the Law!” And it was always cheesy as fuck. But I love the way Karl Urban does it in this film. In a whisper.