Cast: Karl Urban (Judge Dredd), Olivia Thirlby (Anderson), Lena Headey (Ma-Ma), Rakie Ayola (Chief Judge)
Director: Pete Travis (Vantage Point, End Game)
Plot: Without giving anything away, this film is about a Judge and a Judge-in-training, trapped inside a locked-down apartment complex, hunted by a drug lord and her crew. The Judge and his trainee must find a way to not only survive, but to bring the drug lord to justice.
Why you should watch it: First, do not confuse this film with the horrible Sylvester Stallone pic from 1995. That movie was unforgivably atrocious on many layers, most importantly on the layer of being a good film. This reboot, released in 2012, is much more in line with the famed comic book character. This film does the character justice - no pun intended.
Created in 1977, Judge Dredd is the brainchild of British comic book writer John Wagner, and first drawn by Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd is a judge in the future, and he is empowered to act as judge, jury, and executioner. He is one of many judges, and they all try to preserve and uphold the law in the almost lawless dystopian future set in Mega-City One.
Understanding this background, this particular movie gets it right. I'm not a huge fan of big budget popcorn movies, filled with explosions and eye-candy. However, I feel that Dredd captures the essence of the comic and is filmed in a way which engrosses the viewer, drawing and keeping him in. The casting is perfect, the plot and writing are tight, and the cinematography is excellent.
Karl Urban plays the titular character with a detached menace. His Dredd is world-weary, yet consistently does his job with honor and dedication. Urban, known to most as the new Dr. McCoy in the Star Trek reboots, speaks in a gravelly monotone that doesn't grate on the viewer. He plays Dredd in a manner reflective of, and honoring towards, the essence of the comic character. Dredd is efficient, calculating, violent when needed, but always both law-abiding and law-upholding. Olivia Thirlby plays his Judge trainee, and she doesn't do it in a wide-eyed rookie sort of way. To be sure, this is not a buddy-cop movie. Her character, Anderson, has precognitive abilities, which are not normally tolerated within the Judge profession. However, the bosses want to see if she can be effective in preventing crimes. Finally, Lena Headey, best known as Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones, is outstanding in her role as a violent drug kingpin, holding an entire apartment complex in terror. I don't say this lightly - she is believable in her character. That's a pretty high compliment.
I strongly suggest giving this film a look. It's incredibly entertaining, and it's filmed brilliantly, as if it's a mash-up of Children of Men, Blade Runner, and District 9. The film sort of flew under the radar, but don't let that fool you. Check out the trailer and maybe watch it today. It's streaming on Netflix.