Brutal ‘Dredd’ offers plenty of action … with helmet intact

Photo: Lionsgate Films

Karl Urban plays Judge Joseph Dredd in a dystopian action-thriller.

By Dakota Miller, Staff Writer

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4.5stars

Originally a character in the comic 2000 A.D. in 1977 and adapted into a movie in 1995 with Sylvester Stallone, Judge Dredd has had a long and accolade-filled career. While the 1995 film was not terrible, it did break the biggest cardinal rule of the series: Judge Dredd never removes his helmet. You never see his face.

The 2012 film Dredd revisits the infamous authoritarian, this time played by Karl Urban. Instead of focusing on the villain of the 1995 film, ex-Judge Rico Dredd, this Judge Joseph Dredd goes up against the gang leader MaMa, played by Lena Heady. So what happens? Let’s leave it at this: There are explosions, really big guns, and pure, adrenalin-pumping action throughout.

Creating a more modern version of Dredd while keeping faithful to the Judge’s uniform is tough, but the costume designers on this film pull it off. The Lawmaster motorcycle that Dredd drives was significantly more imposing in the 1995 film, but Dredd’s simpler yet more high-tech Lawgiver pistol and his battle-ready uniform are excellent. Dredd’s ’95 uniform looked much more ceremonial than it should have for a combatant, while his new uniform is much more battle-oriented, with what appears to be modern paramilitary body armor.

Urban has always been a fantastic actor, and this role is no exception. He plays the Judge with a brutality that is deserving of the futuristic authoritarian. Plus, he never takes off his helmet. Heady as villain MaMa and Olivia Thilby as Judge Anderson also give top-notch performances. No offense to Sylvester Stallone’s Dredd, but all things considered, Urban is a much more impressive Judge.

Dredd is a cult classic. The action is fantastic, the conflict is superb and the design (minus the whole of Mega-City One, which the 1995 film did better) is excellent. The story takes place in a dystopian future that is captured in the pure brutality of the film — something anyone interested in action should see.