In 1995, Danny Cannon directed the first film escapade of Judge Dredd. It starred Slyvester Stallone and Rob Schneider as well as Diane Lane and Armand Assante.
The new Dredd shot in 3D in Cape Town, South Africa gets everything right that the first one got wrong. It's directed by Pete Travis, who also did Vantage Point, in which a presidential assasination attempt gets retold from several different 'vantage points' - get it? I really liked that movie - you should rent it and check it out.
Vantage Point was gritty and quick; a style that lends itself to the new Dredd.
- Unlike Stallone, who had never heard of Judge Dredd until he got the role, Karl Urban has been a fan since his teenage years. He has been building quite the career in genre-based entertainment since 1996 on Hercules: the Legendary Journeys. He followed that up with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which shot in his native New Zeland, Ghost Ship, Chronicles of Riddick, Bourne Supremecy, Doom, Pathfinder, R.E.D, Star Trek and Priest. He completely embodies Dredd, giving him a determined growl, and hey - true fans - he never removes the helmet!
- Olivia Thirlby is a classically trained actress from New York who has done mostly small independent movies up to this point. She plays Judge Anderson, the new young psychic recruit to the judges. She gives Anderson a quiet confidence with a determination to become a judge and help make the world better. The psychic abilities are not overused, although, conveniently, they work better without the helmet, so she spends most of the movie without hers.
- Wood Harris is Ma-Ma's Slo-Mo distributor that they capture and have to lug around for the majority of the movie. He does a good job with what could have a been a minor character, but turns out to be very interesting. I particularly like the mental battle he has with Thirlby's phsychic Judge Anderson, where he thinks he might be able to shock her, and she proves him wrong.
- Lena Heady plays Ma-Ma and is the most memorable thing in this movie. From her opening sequence where she is on Slo-Mo and moves the water in her tub, to the flashbacks that show her rise from former hooker to ultra-violent drug lord, to the scenes where she shuts down the building and demands the judges - she is captivating. I first remember seeing her in 300, then Terminator: the Sarah Conner Chronicles, and most recently on Game of Thrones. She just reads as mean, tough, and evil. And thanks to my rabid viewing of FaceOff on SyFy, I was very impressed with the scar on her face!
I really enjoyed this movie, top to bottom. The effects are great, the story is simple - and hey! it's only an hour and a half long. I particularly enjoyed Thirlby's performance, more than I expected, as sometimes the female characters are at best two dimensional in these types of movies (tough for me, because I love these types of movies and want to see more strong females in them) and at worst, dumb, useless throw-away characters. The mutant psychic powers were understated, and well used. There is one scene where she gets captured, and again I was worried we were going to have to see what had been a strong female character (up to that point) resuced by the male lead. She actually resuces herself, kills some bad guys, evades capture, then makes it just in time to rescue Dredd! Awesome. Go see this - in 3D, it's well worth it!
8 out of 10 - Gained points for Judge Anderson being badass, Lost points for all the slow motion bullets ripping through cheeks - ick. Gained points for the almost real-time unfolding and the trapped in a building setup. That's how you save money.
Bonus Video 1: Urban on Hercules/Xena...
Bonus Video 2: Headey in 300 - in case you had forgotten the visual masterpiece that was 300.